New booze laws are 'unfairly targeting' the sellers

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 13:00 18/12/2013

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New alcohol laws coming into effect today give police powers to fine people $250 on the spot.

The legislation also introduces fines of up to $2000 for those who irresponsibly supply under-agers with alcohol, and put more responsibility on bar owners, with shorter trading hours and stricter rules for serving drunk patrons.

But Hospitality Association Nelson branch president, Ron Taylor says the hospitality industry was being unfairly targeted without enough responsibility being put on drinkers to control their behaviour.

Under the new laws all bars, clubs, and pubs are restricted to sell between 8am to 4am and off licences can make sales between 7am and 11pm. But these rules may change yet again under Nelson and Tasman councils' alcohol policies, which could come into play next year.

A stricter definition has been given for intoxicated people to give clear direction to those who sell alcohol. The definition includes anyone who has an "affected appearance, impaired behaviour, impaired co-ordination, or impaired speech". Bars cannot serve or allow drunk people to remain in the bar or could face a $10,000 fine.

Mr Taylor said bar staff could also face fines for serving intoxicated people. A three strikes and you are out rule now applies to bars if they are caught violating the rules three times within three years - they can lose their licence and may not be able to apply for a new one for five years.

Mr Taylor, who also owns Nelson night club Little Rock, said bars, pubs, clubs were having to take on too much responsibility under the new laws when more focus should have been put on educating people how to drink, and making them responsible for their own drunken behaviour.

"What the laws have done is put it all back on the bars again and nothing on the person who drinks the alcohol.

"Nobody pours it down their throat, they drink the alcohol themselves, but yet they just keep punishing bars. They don't punish the people that cause the problems or the headlines," he said. "The only way I believe we can go forward is education, but of course sometimes education is done through punishment."

He supported minimising the impact of alcohol, but the measures made it difficult for an industry "that's really suffering at the moment", with licence fees tripling and bar staff facing too much financial punishment for making potential mistakes.

He supported a $250 fine against those using or swapping fake ids as it was a a major problem.

Nelson MP Nick Smith said he was looking forward to the new law coming into force as it was an opportunity "to reduce the harm from alcohol in Nelson".

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Dr Smith said while the law put more responsibility on the hospitality industry there was also a higher level of personal responsibility.

"It makes it not just an offence for an alcohol establishment to serve a person that effectively is drunk and disorderly but also makes it an offence and instant fine for the person who has drunk excessively," he said.

"The law increases the onus on the sellers of liquor as well as putting a greater degree of individual responsibility."

Under the new laws, anyone carrying an open vessel or drinking in public places including "private spaces that the public has legitimate access to" such as schools or car parks could face an on-the-spot fine of $250.

Adults providing booze to anyone under the age of 18 who was not their child would need to get permission from parents or guardian first.

Consent may be given by "genuine" email, conversation, or text messages.

The stricter controls about under-agers came from a review of alcohol law last year. Health Action Trust health promoter Rosy Duncan said there were strong messages around supply of alcohol to young people.

"We are aware from research that adolescent brains are more vulnerable to psychoactive substances, which alcohol is," said Ms Duncan.

There was a push from some sectors to have the drinking age put back up to 20. Instead the Government decided to place better parameters around supply to 18-year-olds in terms of supervision and the expressed intent, said Ms Duncan.

- The Nelson Mail

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