Parents targeted over booze

Parents hosting teenage parties at their homes will have to step up their host responsibility because of law changes. Not doing so could result in a $2000 fine.

Hosts will need to gain explicit consent from parents, either in person or by a phone call or text message, if anyone under 18 is drinking at their private party.

The law changes will also require anyone who supplies alcohol to those under 18 to do so responsibly, which involves active supervision, ensuring non-alcoholic drinks and food are available, and arranging transport.

As the law stands, minors are allowed to consume alcohol as long as it is a private social gathering.

As of December 18, formal parental permission will be required.

Timaru licensing sergeant Grant Lord said the new rules would put the onus on the hosts.

"Police will consider the hosts of parties responsible for creating a safer drinking environment," he said.

In many cases, young people are given alcohol by their own parents to take to a party.

"In that case, the host should make sure they know who supplied the alcohol, and what the rules were when it was given."

Lord said he was not sure how the new rules would affect parents' enthusiasm to host parties, but felt the responsibility was in the right place.

Police were yet to discuss how they would enforce the new law, but Mr Lord expected if a party got out of control, there would likely be an investigation into the supervisor's role.

"It's designed to change the way people supervise, and to support safer drinking practices."

Year-13 Craighead Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) leader Bailey Hoar was not convinced the law change would make a difference to the way minors drank.

"Teenagers are teenagers, and if they want to drink they'll usually find a way. Most parents are responsible, but teenagers don't want them hanging around and controlling everything. They want to keep their social life and their parents separate."

She said many parties were spontaneous, and many under-age drinkers were supplied alcohol by friends who were already 18.

"If parents say no, there's usually another way to get around it.

"People throw parties when parents aren't around, as well."

However, she could see that the changes to the law would get people talking.

"Drinking is overdone and can be dangerous.

"It could be a wake-up call for people to be more open with their parents and start talking, to be more open and honest about it," she said.

"I reckon it will put some parents off letting their kids have parties.

"Most don't want to be responsible for that many people and it doesn't look good if something does go wrong. It might mean teenagers go somewhere else or sneak alcohol," she said.

The Adolescent Health Research Group 2008 survey found seven out of 10 secondary school students reported having consumed alcohol.

Nearly half of the students reported having five or more drinks in a usual session.

Fairfax Media