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Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill
An overview
A bill to amend the Sale of Liquor Act, 1989 has been introduced and was debated in November. It was referred to the Select Committee on Justice and Law. The deadline for public submissions is 15 March and the Select Committee's report is due on 18 March.

This is an important policy area because legislative control over the sale and supply of alcohol and responsible management of licensed premises has important consequences for the health of individuals and for the community as a whole. The Act helps create the social climate and physical environments in which New Zealanders drink, and can influence the extent of alcohol related harm.

A research based response
The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit presents its responses to this first version of the Bill, based on findings from New Zealand drinking surveys, research on administration and enforcement of the current Act, and experiences and research in comparable countries.

Based on its research, the Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit opposes lowering the drinking age from 20 to 18. We recommend reducing risk and alcohol related harm to young people by enforcing the drinking age we’ve got.

The Ministry of Heath, the Alcohol Advisory Council, the Public Health Association, the Alcohol Research & Public Health Unit, Te Puni Kokiri, the Land Transport Authority, the Automobile Association, and other national and community organisations with an interest in public health also oppose lowering the drinking age

We do support the proposals in the Bill that simplify the sections of the drinking age and define ‘evidence of age’. We support proposed changes to the Land Transport Act to provide a driver’s licence with photo and date of birth, and a similar non-driver’s ID card. These and other suitable documents may be used by anyone who wishes to show they are old enough to buy alcohol.

Key issues in the Bill
The Bill proposes some changes further liberalising the sale of alcohol, as well as some clarifications that will improve enforcement. A number of changes are also proposed to the way the licensing system works.

What the Bill proposes

  • Lowering the drinking age to 18 - ID defined but not required
  • Sunday trading, all alcohol types in supermarket, dairies etc.
  • Services stations to be only business not suitable for an off-licence
  • Clubs to become on-licences
  • ‘Dispensations’ for some from need to hold licence and pay renewal fee
  • Management training to be required, but ‘host responsibility’ not included
  • Unopposed licence decisions to be made by District Licensing Agencies
  • All licensing decisions may devolve to ‘accredited’ DLAs, with right to court appeal if revoked
  • Repeals need to have planning consent before applying for a liquor licence.

Additional issues

  • Recommendations from Liquor Licensing Authority’s annual reports to Parliament have not been included
  • The Authority says it is ‘powerless’ to respond to public objections from local communities
  • Making licence criteria and conditions more responsive - recommended amendments from APHRU
  • Still no opportunity for MPs to address policy on alcohol advertising and promotions

APHRU's response clause by clause, or issue by issue.

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