OPINION: The battle to reduce the numbers of young southern drink drivers continues, with police and the courts frustrated that the message is not getting through, writes Bill English (National) in From the Beehive.
The Southern region has the unenviable record of topping the national arrest rate for blood and breath alcohol-related offences for 15 to 19 year olds.
Police statistics also show that a 16-year-old Southland teen recorded the highest breath alcohol level in the country for a person younger than 20 last year.
In Central Otago and Queenstown, District Court judges are warning harsher penalties are on the way for offenders as they become frustrated at drink drivers in their area continuing to flout the law. Some of these increased statistics relate to the hard line local police are taking on alcohol, and the zero alcohol tolerance for drivers under 20 which the Government has already made law, but nevertheless the figures are disappointing.
Alcohol consumption continues to be a major issue across the country.
Clear direction on what to do about the heavy drinking culture was outlined to Government by the Law Commission.
The Government's Alcohol Reform Bill was developed from that and is soon to be debated for the final time in Parliament.
These laws will be a positive step towards addressing New Zealand's binge drinking culture.
The bill will reduce the availability of and access to alcohol through measures like preventing the sale of liquor at convenience stores.
The changes support a shift in our drinking culture, away from drinking to excess and towards more responsible, moderate alcohol consumption.
The bill proposes a new "split age" for alcohol purchases – 20 years for off-licences like supermarkets and 18 years for on-licences like bars and restaurants.
A range of other changes to liquor laws are also proposed.
New national maximum trading hours of 7am to 11pm for off-licences and 8am to 4am for on-licences and club licences will also be included.
The bill was introduced in November 2010 and passed its first and second readings, along with select committee consideration.
Among the changes adopted out of the select committee process is a requirement for supermarkets and grocery stores to display alcohol and associated advertising in a single non-prominent part of their stores.
These reforms are about ensuring that we continue to work on developing a healthy attitude to alcohol consumption.
» Bill English is the electorate MP for Clutha-Southland.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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