Police 'aghast' as drunken revelry begins

More than 330 people were arrested for drunken behaviour and assaults during a nationwide police crackdown on alcohol-related harm during the weekend.

On Friday and Saturday nights, an estimated 120 alcohol-related assaults happened during the blitz, police said.

Another 180 licensed premises were found to be breaching the liquor laws, with more than 30 busted for selling alcohol to minors.

The initiative was part of Operation Unite, a joint project between Australian and New Zealand police to challenge alcohol misuse.

The police manager of alcohol harm prevention, Inspector Ben Offner, said the high numbers of drink drivers detected was "extremely disappointing".

About 45,000 drivers were breath-tested at checkpoints throughout the country on two nights.

"We are left aghast by the number of people who continue to put others at risk by getting behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol.

"One is too many . . . and they should all know better."

Total arrests for drink-driving were not yet available, Offner said. He hoped the blitz would be a wake-up call for all New Zealanders to make safe transport arrangements if they planned on drinking during the holiday period.

Operation Unite involved almost 700 police officers.

The crackdown aimed to target both rural and urban drink-drivers, underage drinking and breaches of liquor bans.

Police on the street also made 240 interventions for the safety of intoxicated individuals and referred 16 people to the Alcohol Helpline.

A Business and Economic Research Ltd study in 2009 estimated alcohol-related harm cost New Zealand $4.9 billion a year.

Fairfax Media