Macindoe 'very disappointed' with vote

Parliament has voted to keep the alcohol purchase age at 18, despite a Hamilton MP's campaign to raise it to 20.

A rare three-way ballot ended in 68 votes for the status quo and 53 backing a return to 20.

The proposed "split age" option - 18 in bars and 20 at off-licenses - was eliminated in the first ballot with only 33 votes, whereas 50 backed keeping the age at 18 and 38 opted to increase it to 20.

Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe, who led the amendment for raising the drinking age to 20, said he was "very disappointed" following last night's debate.

"I think it's quite a sad day for the country really, but I'm not entirely surprised at the outcome. It would have been quite a significant aspect of the attempt to try to change our drinking culture."

Hauraki-Waikato Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta and Hamilton-based Labour MP Sue Moroney both voted to raise the age to 20, as did Hamilton-based NZ First MP Barbara Stewart.

However, Mr Macindoe's party mates David Bennett and Lindsay Tisch voted to keep it at 18.

"I've always been 18 on that," Mr Bennett said.

"We have got issues in our drinking culture but age isn't going to be the answer to that."

Green Party Coromandel-based MP Catherine Delahunty also voted to keep it 18.

The victory for MPs and lobbyists pushing to "Keep It 18" means the 18 years purchase age replaces the split age in the Alcohol Reform Bill, which will be passed into law later this year.

Mr Macindoe said he was "desperately keen to do my bit to change" the country's drinking culture.

"Inevitably I get painted as a bit of a killjoy on this issue, but the fact of the matter is, young people and huge quantities of alcohol consumed rapidly makes for an explosive combination."

He said he knew it would be a struggle to attract the numbers when the Green Party and Labour Party, with a few exceptions, were "block voting" to keep the age 18.

National MP Nikki Kaye, who introduced the "Keep It 18" amendment, told Parliament the debate was about rights and freedom.

She said there had been a drop in alcohol consumption among 12- to 17-year-olds of 40 per cent in the last five years, and 92 per cent of young people got their alcohol from people aged over 20.

"You need to vote with your heads and vote for provisions that will make an actually difference in terms of supply."

Alcohol Action NZ spokesman Doug Sellman said: "The people who are making money out of the heavy drinking culture will be celebrating.

"The people who pick up the mess and treat alcohol problems will be profoundly disappointed."

Prime Minister John Key was one of 18 MPs who shifted from the split age to 18 years in the second vote.

"It's a difficult area because for the vast overwhelming bulk of the country they consume alcohol responsibly and whatever targeted measures we make, we've got to make sure that we don't just single out one particular group."

Waikato Times