Government help needed to keep pubs open for Rugby World Cup

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff.co.nz

Prime minister John Key and Labour leader Andrew Little give their views on the proposed alcohol bill for Rugby World Cup.

The "spiteful" Green Party has blocked a bill that would allow pubs to open for Rugby World Cup matches. 

A bill, introduced to Parliament by ACT Party leader David Seymour on Tuesday, sought to allow pubs to open outside of legal trading hours to show Rugby World Cup matches being played in the United Kingdom.

But the Greens objected, with co-leader James Shaw accusing Seymour of trying to boost his profile. Without the unanimous support of MPs, the bill cannot be rushed through in time for the tournament.

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague says a bill that would allow pubs to open for Rugby World Cup matches is a ...
Robyn Edie

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague says a bill that would allow pubs to open for Rugby World Cup matches is a "cheap gimmick".

Seymour said the Greens were being "spiteful".

"Certainly if it's rejected today, I'll be texting the PM to say he's got my vote to put a bill through with the Government. 

"I think it's the right thing to do, it's what most New Zealanders want and I'm opposed to the majority being punished due to actions of an irresponsible minority."

ACT leader David Seymour thinks every Kiwi should be able to have a beer at the pub and watch the All Blacks during the ...
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

ACT leader David Seymour thinks every Kiwi should be able to have a beer at the pub and watch the All Blacks during the Rugby World Cup.

He branded them "Green Party Poopers". 

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The bill could now only proceed if it was picked up by the Government, something Prime Minister John Key has indicated is a possibility.

He said a decision would be made in the next day or two. 

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If that was done, consideration would need to be given to whether law changes would apply to just All Blacks' games, or to all games.

"That's a debate we'd have to have, whether we'd say it's solely for all All Black games, and then the quarters, the semis, and the final, or whether it's slightly broader."

Key said bars could apply for permission within the existing law, but it was expensive and bureaucratic.

When told by reporters that the Green Party would block the Bill, Key said "I thought they probably would".

"It's just par for the course, isn't it."

The Greens were "always opposed to anything that's sort of vaguely good fun".

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said the bill would see "boozed-up people spilling out of bars just as parents are dropping their children at school".

"We already have regulations in place for bars to apply for special licences for occasions such as this, and many bars have already decided to do this specifically for this year's Rugby World Cup," Hague said.

Seymour said the Greens "do themselves no favours by locking themselves in as the party opposed to fun".

"Shutting New Zealanders at home for this event seems like a mean-spirited affront to community freedoms.

"An internationally televised world cup featuring our own reigning champions should be an opportunity to bring communities together over coffee or beer and showcase our wonderful hospitality facilities."

Labour MPs voted not to object to the bill when its caucus met on Tuesday and leader Andrew Little said he personally supported it.

"There's hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who enjoy a tipple, usually when watching sporting games and they do so responsibly," Little said.

"This is a tournament that happens once every four years and it's totally in keeping with social intercourse that they have a drink."

Little said if he was in a pub at 5am and the All Blacks were winning he wouldn't say no to a drink.

"If we're losing I'd probably have two beers at 5am."

United Future leader Peter Dunne did not object to the bill although the basis of that decision had nothing to do with his Irish Catholic heritage - something Seymour said was bound to see him vote in favour of pubs staying open.

"It's certainly true that I have a number of publicans in my background but it's actually more simple than that."

Dunne said there was no argument when it came to All Blacks games and given the number of Kiwis who turned out to watch them it made sense that they be able to do so at the pub.

Where there might be some debate was if pubs thought it was appropriate to be open during less significant games.

"Take Georgia versus Namibia for example, I'm not sure it should extend that far."

Seymour expected NZ First to support it given its leader, 70-year-old Winston Peters, had been given time off Parliament to travel with the parliamentary rugby team as media manager.

"Not only did he campaign on common sense but he can hardly support keeping New Zealand pubs shut at the very time he will almost certainly be in British ones," Seymour said.

The Rugby World Cup - beginning on September 18 - is being held in England and Wales. Some All Blacks matches will be broadcast at 9am, when bars were are already allowed to be open. Other matches - including the final - will be screened between 1am and 8am.

Seymour said England had successfully passed similar legislation during the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil.

He hoped the bill would pass into law before the World Cup started.

"Our hospitality industry does a great job of feeding us, watering us and entertaining us and gives us safe environments for having fun," Seymour said.

"Let's make it possible for these facilities to be used by those that want to use them."

GAMES OUTSIDE OF TRADING HOURS

NZ v Argentina, 3.45am (NZ time), Sept 21.

NZ v Namibia, 7am, Sept 25.

NZ v Georgia, 8am, Oct 3.

NZ v Tonga, 8am, Oct 10.

Final, 5am, Nov 1.

 - Stuff

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