Alcohol Reform Bill

Last year the Law Commission published a report titled "Alcohol in Our Lives: Curbing the Harm".

This report recognised the increasing toll that intoxication and excessive drinking is having on the nation's level of health. As a result of that report the Alcohol Reform Bill was drafted to facilitate and encourage a safer and more responsible drinking culture, especially among young people. If passed the Bill will repeal and replace the Sale of Liquor Act 1989. Many of the provisions of the Sale of Liquor Act will be carried over, however the Bill also proposes a number of major changes to our primary liquor laws. The most significant and controversial areas of change include:

  • the minimum age for purchasing alcohol;
  • trading hours for suppliers;
  • local alcohol policies;
  • advertising; and
  • a change from the Liquor Licensing Authority to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.

Age

The Bill proposes a "split-age" approach in relation to the purchase of alcohol. It proposes to increase the minimum age for purchase of alcohol from off-licensed premises, such as supermarkets and bottle shops, to 20 years of age or over. It is proposed that the age restriction on purchasing alcohol from on-licensed premises, such as bars and entertainment venues, remains unchanged at 18 years of age or over.

Trading Hours

The Bill also prescribes maximum trading hours for the supply of liquor. Default trading hours for the supply of liquor would be set between 8am and 4am on the following day for on-licensed premises and between 7am and 11pm for off-licensed premises. However any newly introduced Local Authority Policies (see below) may impose more lenient or stringent trading hours than the default hours.

Local Authority Policies (LAP)

The Bill empowers communities to cater specifically to their needs by adopting local alcohol policies. LAPs allow local communities to have more say on the trading hours of alcohol outlets in the community.

Advertising

Currently, the alcohol industry is allowed to regulate its own advertising. The Bill seeks to change this by strengthening advertising controls relating to liquor and alcoholic products. For example, promotions that involve heavily discounted alcoholic products will be deemed to be unacceptable.

Conclusion

Many people suggest that the Bill will have little to no effect on the multitude of issues caused by alcohol in this country. The Bill is evidence of an attempt to balance the interest of New Zealanders while trying to maintain a sustainable liquor industry within which manufacturers and retailers are not severely prejudiced.

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