Nats to discuss booze prices with industry

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2012

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The liquor industry is soon to meet officials over a Government proposal for a new minimum alcohol pricing regime.

The plan could face early resistance, however, with some in the industry believed to be reluctant to talk openly about pricing in front of competitors during meetings on Tuesday and Friday next week. Some believe it will end up as a "hollow consultation" because of the format.

Alcohol reform advocates have pushed for a minimum pricing regime as a way of reducing harm from liquor abuse.

In a major review of liquor laws published in 2010, the Law Commission recommended an investigation into minimum pricing. Three-quarters of the submissions on the Law Commission report backed a minimum price per unit and the Government announced in response to the review that it would look into the idea.

The Justice Ministry has since come up with a plan, due to be reported to Cabinet before the end of September.

"Meetings with sector representatives are due to begin next week to discuss possible impacts on retailers – including off-licences – and alcohol producers," ministry acting general manager Esther King said.

Alcohol Healthwatch has suggested a minimum price per standard drink could reduce drinking levels by about 7 per cent. That would "significantly reduce hospital admissions, alcohol related crime and criminal damage", it says.

But Lion Beer, Spirits & Wine spokeswoman Liz Read said a more targeted approach was preferred by the company. "We have a preference for proposals that ... aren't population-based and therefore don't affect everyone," Ms Read said.

"Minimum pricing hasn't been implemented successfully anywhere in the world. We're not necessarily sure that New Zealand needs to be a pioneer."

The final stages of the Alcohol Reform Bill are expected to be debated by Parliament in late July, after MPs return from a two-week recess.

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- The Dominion Post

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