Second hurdle for alcohol law reform bill
Should the age to buy alcohol from a store rise to 20?
The Government's alcohol reform bill - in its final stages before Parliament - has been criticised as ''too timid''.
Director of the National Addiction Centre Doug Sellman this afternoon suggested the bill was about to be returned to Parliament for its final stages.
Justice Minister Judith Collins has since announced that it will have its final consideration next month.
The bill would reduce the availability of and access to alcohol through measures like preventing the sale of liquor at convenience stores, she said.
''The changes support a shift in drinking culture, away from drinking to excess, towards responsible, moderate alcohol consumption.''
The bill proposes also proposes a new "split age" for alcohol purchases - 20 years for off-licenses like supermarkets and 18 years for on-licenses like bars and restaurants.
A range of other changes to liquor laws, including more community control over the concentration, location, and hours of sale for alcohol outlets is also proposed. New national maximum trading hours of 7am-11pm for off-licences and 8am-4am for on-licences and club licences would also be included.
The bill was introduced in November 2010 and has passed its first and second readings as well as consideration by the select committee.
Among the changes adopted out of the select committee process was a requirement for supermarkets and grocery stores to display alcohol and associated advertising in a single non-prominent part of their stores.
Sellman said the updated bill included "multiple tinkerings" but there was still a "lack of substantial reform".
"It is worse than weak, the new bill is shocking," Sellman said.
"It is inexcusable that the government is too timid and too captured by the big alcohol-related businesses to tackle the real problem driving the heavy drinking culture in New Zealand - the vested interests of a powerful alcohol industry which will continue to enjoy relatively unregulated free market conditions to push their drug products at New Zealanders."
Sellman said bill had been "talked up by the government's PR machine" as a ground-breaking piece of legislation but was "just a disappointing damp squib".
Voting on the alcohol purchase age part of the bill is expected to be on conscience, meaning MPs will not have to vote on party lines.
The split age is currently favoured to win the most support, but two National MPs are each expected to make bids for the age to either go up to 20 or stay at 18. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has already tabled a supplementary order paper calling for the status quo.
The bill has been bumped down the Order Paper by other measures this year.
When asked yesterday if the bill would be considered by Parliament again this week or next, a spokeswoman for Collins said there was "nothing scheduled".
There seems to have been a change of heart since then, however, with the bill now expected to pass in to law next month.