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Wednesday, March 11

Government tackling alcohol problems

A bill which takes action on alcohol availability and abuse received its first reading in Parliament tonight.

"The Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill responds to New Zealanders’ demand for action on alcohol availability and abuse and encourages both adults and young people to drink responsibly," Justice Minister Simon Power said.

The bill proposes that:

  • Local councils can restrict the number of liquor outlets in an area, the location and proximity of outlets to other community buildings such as schools, and hours of operation
  • Except in very limited circumstances, grocery-selling stores will not be able to obtain a liquor licence unless they have a floor area of at least 150 square metres.  Existing licensees will have to comply upon renewal of their licences.
  • Grocery-selling stores will continue to be restricted to selling beer, wine, cider and mead
  • The allowable blood alcohol content for drivers under 20 years of age who don't have a full drivers licence is reduced to zero

"New Zealanders are increasingly frustrated by their inability to influence liquor licensing decisions. Since 1990, the number of on-licence premises has more than tripled, and the number of off-licence premises has tripled.

"People are concerned about the sheer number of liquor outlets, particularly when they spring up near schools and other community buildings.

"The bill also recognises that parents have the primary responsibility for teaching their children to drink responsibly. A recent study found that children as young as four were trying alcohol, and that the onset of drinking rises very steeply from the age of twelve.

"Under this bill it will be an offence for adults to give alcohol to a young person without the consent of their parents or guardians – giving parents more control over their children's access to alcohol.

"It will also mean alcohol problems can be tackled early, by allowing the Police to divert young people to early intervention alcohol programmes instead of issuing infringement notices.

"This bill deals with the most pressing concerns about alcohol.  The Government is fully behind the Law Commission’s wider review of the regulatory framework for the sale and supply of alcohol, and I have asked the Commission to speed up the review.

"I’m very pleased that the Commission will now be releasing a discussion document in the middle of this year and a final report in mid-2010," Mr Power said.

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