Booze laws 'not enough'

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012

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New alcohol laws will have little effect on New Zealand's binge-drinking culture and drunk drivers, according to the top liquor licensing inspector.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Bill, the Local Government (Alcohol Reform) Amendment Bill and the Summary Offences (Alcohol Reform) Amendment Bill were passed on Tuesday night.

MPs had already voted on the clauses and amendments to three bills, including a majority vote to keep the purchase age at 18.

Calls to establish a minimum pricing threshold, a ban on RTDs containing more than 5 per cent alcohol and reducing the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers did not receive a majority vote so were not included in the final bill.

New Zealand Institute of Liquor Licensing Inspectors president Murray Clearwater was happy with the changes but said they didn't go far enough.

"We are pleased with the control mechanisms that have been put in place, however there are a number of others that should have also been implemented," Mr Clearwater said.

"Under the new act there is still going to be cheap alcohol available over extended hours and this will not contribute to the reduction in alcohol-related harm that we all hoped for."

Mr Clearwater, who worked as a police officer for 15 years, said reducing the drink-driving limits would effectively rule out drinking for drivers.

"With the existing limit, many drivers still try to calculate which is a safe level of consumption."

He said the government would have to look at regulating high-alcohol and multi-serve RTDs at some stage as they were a significant contributor to alcohol-related harm.

The changes allow communities a greater say on alcohol licensing, introduce stronger rules on the type of stores able to sell alcohol and restrict supermarkets and grocery stores to displaying alcohol in one area.

Communities could influence the contents of a Local Alcohol Policy that will contain rules around operating hours, density of licensed premises, location and types of premises that may be granted licences.

Mr Clearwater said dairies and convenience stores would not meet the new criteria to hold an off-licence and renewals would be refused unless the premises were altered sufficiently to comply.

Licensing inspectors would also gain enhanced powers of entry.

"They can enter licensed premises to observe the management without first identifying themselves as they currently have to do. We see this as a valuable tool to observe the natural environment," he said.

The act was the first time New Zealand's alcohol law has been reviewed in more than 20 years.

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