By Andrew Starke
The New Zealand Government is in the process of reviewing the country’s liquor laws with a new report suggesting some far-reaching solutions to stem increased alcohol consumption.
Tasked with making recommendations to Parliament, the Law Commission has released a 279-page discussion paper that will ultimately form the backbone for a redraft of New Zealand’s Sale of Liquor Act.
Amongst the recommendations are setting a minimum price for purchasing alcohol, granting the Liquor Licensing Authority greater powers, particularly over the criteria under which liquor licences can be declined, and making it an offence to drink in a public place, beyond bans that already apply.
The public and trade have until the end of August to make submissions, to be followed in March next year by a further report and final recommendations.
However some industry commentators have questioned whether the report, the first comprehensive review of the liquor industry since 1986, isn’t simply a case of the pendulum swinging back in favour of more punitive measures.
Liquor retailers have already made their thoughts known with 20 dairy owners protesting outside Parliament yesterday (Aug 18) against parallel legislation that would prevent them from selling alcohol.
The Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill was introduced last year and passed its first reading in March.
One element of the bill would make it illegal for alcohol to be sold in stores with a floor area of less than 150 square meters.
Both the bill and the Law Commission’s report on alcohol will be considered by the New Zealand Parliament’s Justice Select Committee.
The Law Commission’s suggestions include:
* reducing the availability of cheap drinks favoured by young and heavy drinkers;
* allowing those aged 18 or older to drink at a licensed premises but restricting the off-license purchase age to 20;
* a new Sale of Liquor Act;
* reducing tax on low-alcohol products to encourage their consumption over stronger drinks;
* reducing the hours which alcohol can be bought, including 2am bar closures;
* lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers (with a zero limit for under 20s);
* expanding the criteria under which a licence to sell alcohol can be declined.
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