Police will be given new powers under changes unveiled by the Government to crack down on teen drunkenness and adults who supply minors with alcohol.
Christchurch MP and Associate Justice Minister Lianne Dalziel said yesterday she was drafting a bill that would make the supply of liquor to minors illegal.
Currently, it is only illegal to sell alcohol to those under the age of 18. Under Dalziel's proposed legislation, only parents, guardians, or those authorised by them, will be able to offer alcohol to minors.
The legislation being drafted, tentatively entitled the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, will also:
Give police new powers to caution young people for drunkenness. Cut the alcohol limit to zero for drivers under the age of 20 who do not hold a full licence.Ban from holding a manager's certificate for five years anyone prosecuted more than three times for selling alcohol to minors.Allow councils to set tougher standards for licensed premises, including opening hours and proximity to schools.
Dalziel told The Press she was planning to include within the new legislation Manurewa MP George Hawkins' private member's bill on liquor licensing and strengthen it to allow local licensing authorities to set conditions such as "one-way door" policies, opening hours, and the types of establishment that could operate in certain areas.
The changes would allow communities to object to licensing applications on the grounds of density and social impact, as provided for in Hawkins' bill, Dalziel said.
The moves follow another horror weekend on Christchurch city streets involving young people and alcohol, and a recent spate of violent crime in South Auckland.
Dalziel said while the Government could not single-handedly change young people's attitude to alcohol, she believed the legislation would make a difference.
"It sends a strong message that it is up to parents to decide whether (minors) are going to drink or not before the age of purchase."
Dalziel said she was also interested in providing police with powers to formally caution young people who were drunk in public.
It is not illegal to be drunk in a public place, and currently police must wait until someone becomes disorderly to arrest them.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday that she would be asking the Law Commission to review the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 and its amendments including the 1998 change that allowed supermarkets and dairies to sell alcohol.
While she thought it unlikely Parliament would vote to remove wine and beer from supermarkets, Clark hinted the corner dairy's days of selling liquor could be numbered.
"It's that corner store, where you have a density of outlets, that our attention is really focused now. And that's where the police tell us the issue is. They're giving us figures which are quite alarming with respect to the proportion of crime which is associated with alcohol and heavy drinking," Clark said.
Both Dalziel's bill and whatever the Law Commission reported back on the Sale of Liquor Act would be conscience votes, Clark said, but she expected almost universal support from Parliament.
The proposals build on a paper taken to Cabinet by former justice minister Mark Burton last October, which included making it an offence to supply minors with alcohol but only for consumption in a public place. That was derided at the time by the Drug Foundation as a "soft, feeble" response to the problem.
Dalziel said she had asked officials to draft the bill by the end of next month for introduction to Parliament in August.
National leader John Key said National had not yet seen the details of what the Government was proposing but would look at it.
"As I made clear last week, we're quite prepared to look at the proliferation of liquor outlets and the concern that communities have."
- The Press
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