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Boozers beware this weekend

JAY BOREHAM
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013

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Police are out in force this weekend to challenge crime, violence and anti-social behaviour caused by alcohol misuse.

A "Black Friday" start tomorrow to Operation Unite sees a joint initiative of police commissioners across Australia and New Zealand swing into action from 6pm through to 6am on Sunday.

It aims to achieve significant change in excessive drinking cultures in both countries.

Police are expecting a big weekend as Kiwis begin Christmas festivities, Waitemata Police Prevention manager Inspector Les Paterson says.

They will focus on drink-driving with breath testing, and the sale of alcohol through overt and covert premise checks.

Extra staff will also be on patrol.

"Alcohol probably makes up around 65 per cent of our business," Mr Paterson says.

Harmful alcohol use in New Zealand caused $4.437 billion of social costs according to the last major review done, Mr Paterson says.

The report estimates that 18 per cent of the police budget, or $270m, was spent on alcohol-related offending and issues, he says.

"That's a lot of money really for the small amount of people who want to go out and abuse alcohol.

"It is about 0.5 per cent of the population who go out and get plastered.

"So the taxpayer is paying one heck of a lot of money for a small amount of people to go out and do what they might call ‘having fun'."

Alcohol is also the main trigger in domestic violence cases.

Police are welcoming updated sale and supply of liquor laws that come into effect on December 18.

Some of the changes include people being held accountable for supplying minors or giving them permission to drink, and $5000 on the spot fines when drunk people are discovered on licensed premises.

More than 70 per cent of underage drinkers police deal with have been given liquor by friends or family, Mr Paterson says.

Parents will now be held responsible for crime, accidents and deaths caused by underage drinking when their children lose control.

"Nothing is going to happen to them if someone was sneaky and did something behind their backs," he says. "But once they give that permission they have got to think ‘how am I going to control that'."

Mr Paterson says he remembers when it used to be illegal for people to be drunk in public.

"You just didn't see them wandering up and down the streets because they would have been in the back of the paddy wagon.

"Those days will probably come back eventually if these laws don't solve the problem."

Jon White, chief executive officer of ANZPAA, the agency that serves police commissioners across Australia and New Zealand, says police are concerned the public consider excessive drinking just part of daily life.

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"Our culture is one where some people are drinking alcohol purely to get drunk."

Cheap and readily available alcohol with many points of access are intensifying the issue, Mr White says.

"The challenge for all of us as individuals, friends and family is to confront our drinking habits."

DRINKING LAWS TO CHANGE

Major changes to New Zealand's drinking laws come into force next week in an aim to reduce alcohol harm.

Introduced under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (SSAA) 2012, they focus on changing our drinking culture through the responsible sale and supply of alcohol.

For the alcohol industry this now means:

1. Stricter controls on alcohol advertising and promotion.

2. A clear definition of "intoxication" will mean licensees cannot serve drunk people, or let them enter the premises.

3. Licences to sell will be harder to get and easier to lose.

4. Harsher penalties and fines in place for serving minors.

5. Trading hours cut to 8am-4am for on-licenses and 7am-11pm for off-licenses.

However, all licensed premises with shorter hours remain bound by their current licence and cannot extend to these maximum hours.

For the public the alcohol law reforms affect how alcohol is served to minors in the home.

As of December 18, it will be illegal to supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 18 unless you are their parent or guardian or have express consent from them.

The penalty for breaching the law is a fine of up to $2000.

In future, maximum trading hours for Auckland will be determined by the region's local alcohol policy (LAP).

The SSAA now gives all districts the ability to develop a LAP to govern the sale, supply, or consumption of alcohol within its area.

Auckland Council is developing its policy with a draft released for public consultation early next year.

- Rodney Times

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