New alcohol legislation awaits a proper workout

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 08/01/2014

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As the Christmas party season and New Year celebrations pass for another year, the new alcohol laws probably won't get a proper workout in Palmerston North until students return for the new tertiary year.

Alcohol law changes, which came into effect on December 18, give police more power in the battle against binge drinkers.

The changes define intoxication for the first time, describing a checklist of signs such as impaired speech, impaired behaviour, or impaired co-ordination.

They allow police to clamp down on bar owners serving drunks, or letting drunks stay on the premises, with offenders facing a $10,000 fine and loss of their licence for five years under a new three-strikes system.

Palmerston North alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Jeff Veale said New Year's Eve passed relatively quietly in Palmerston North, with about seven infringement notices handed out for breach of the liquor ban, a $250 fine, and minors in possession of alcohol in a public place, a $200 fine.

A final tally of the total number of infringement notices handed out wouldn't be available until later in the month.

He was aware some local business owners were a "little bit nervous" about what the impact of the new laws may be, but by the time the next expected busy period came around at the end of February, when students returned, they should have had enough time to understand the changes.

Nathan Hiscox, who owns Palmerston North bars The Beer Barrel and The Empty Vessel, said New Year didn't tend to be a big night for the city, and he expected things to pick up throughout February as students arrived.

Hospitality New Zealand regional manager Chris Hince said there hadn't been a lot of police action or the need to wield their new powers, and he hoped that would continue.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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