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A Shake Up for New Zealand’s Drinking Culture

The lawless drinking culture prevalent among young New Zealanders could see a re-write of the liquor laws. The Law Commission published a report Thursday that recommends ways to minimize the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The Law Commission is an independent government entity in New Zealand that reviews laws and recommends reforms and new legislation.

Raising the age for purchasing alcohol from supermarkets and beverage stores to age twenty is one of the options suggested by the Commission. Eighteen and nineteen-year olds would only be able to buy alcohol at government-licensed premises.

The drinking age was lowered from twenty to eighteen years in 1999. The legislation also opened the door for alcohol sales on Sundays. Supermarkets were permitted to sell beer and wine for the first time.

The Law Commission also recommending a stop to the 24-hour sale of liquor and to people entering bars or hotels after 2 a.m. Patrons already inside the bars would be able to stay until 4 a.m.

According to the Alcohol Advisory Council, 785,000 New Zealand adults are regularly binge drinking. As many as 125,000 teenagers under the age of 17 fall into the category of binge drinkers.

“The Law Commission is not advocating a return to wowserism,” says Sir Geoffrey Palmer, president of the Law Commision. But the time had come to “reduce the excesses and curb the harm.” Wowserism refers to austere, prudish regulations of New Zealand’s past.

Problems associated with alcohol abuse were wide in scope—“antisocial behaviour and aggression associated with intoxication in public places.”

It also included the devastation caused by road accidents, suicides and alcohol related health problems.

Legislation passed in 1967 extended the opening hours for pubs to 10 p.m. in an attempt to address the ‘6 o’clock swill’.

Liquor laws were further liberalised in 1989 with the issuing of 24-hour liquor licenses.

Major Campbell Roberts, director of the Salvation Army Social Services is happy that the review is “raising some fundamental and unpopular issues.”

Reviewing the 1989 legislation is probably not popular with the liquor industry, he said. Addressing the impact of alcohol advertising is necessary, but would not be popular with manufacturers or supermarkets.

People don’t really want to look at changing the drinking age, he said.

Salvation Army services have been under a lot of pressure since 1989. “We have seen a significant rise in addiction, on family income and family stability.”

“We have certainly seen far more problems with young people and alcohol.”

It is the off-license use of alcohol that is having a major impact young people. But, parents also needed to take responsibility, said Major Roberts.

The Hospitality Association, a voluntary trade association representing over 1,500 hospitality businesses, believes the Law Commission’s recommendations will make little difference.

The proposed measures do nothing about individual responsibility, Bruce Robertson, CEO of Hospitality Association, told Newstalkzb. Most alcohol is consumed off premises.

Seventy per cent of alcohol consumption occurs in homes, parties and in public places, he said.

“The issue we have is thirteen and fourteen-year olds drinking. That’s a parental issue as much as anything else.”

“Most of these measures are simply limiting the number of hours that people can be open, the number of premises, and how is that going affect public drinking?”

“Maybe we should be looking at being drunk in a public place becoming an offense and to say it is not okay for New Zealanders to drink until they are falling over,” suggested Mr Robertson.

source: Epoch Times

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