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Have your say on the Alcohol Reform Bill: Background

How did the new liquor bill come about?

  • In 2007, the Government tasked the Law Commission, an independent advisory body headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, to review our liquor laws. This followed increasing concerns among ordinary New Zealanders about alcohol-related harms in our society.
  • During the review, the Law Commission met and talked with various people and organisations throughout the country and received nearly 3,000 submissions. “Alcohol is destroying our community. I work with families, and we can see the damage to them, to their children and to the wider community. I see it in the courts, the hospitals, family violence.” – A community worker in Otara speaks out at a consultation meeting with the Law Commission.
  • In May 2010, the Law Commission released its final report to the Government. This contained 153 recommendations that are intended to work together as a mutually reinforcing package.
  • In response, the Government has proposed adopting many, but not all, of these recommendations. Among those it has left out are some of the most effective policy levers to reduce alcohol-related harms, particularly around price and marketing.
  • The Alcohol Reform Bill currently before Parliament must go through a Select Committee process. This is your chance to be heard by making a written submission to the Select Committee. If you make a written submission, you should also ask to make an oral presentation.

Why do we need to change our liquor laws?

  • We have been relaxing our liquor laws for the last 20 years.
  • The number of outlets licensed to sell alcohol has more than doubled from 6,296 in 1990 to 14,424 in 2010.
  • Alcohol has become more affordable over the last decade.
  • Existing laws are failing to control alcohol advertising, which continues to blatantly associate alcohol with social, sporting and sexual success.
  • The Law Commission described the current situation as “the unbridled commercialisation of alcohol”. This has contributed to an environment that promotes a binge-drinking culture and has led to an increase in alcohol-related harms.

How are we drinking?

  • Total alcohol consumption rose by 9% between 1998 and 2008.
  • 700,000 New Zealanders have been categorised as binge drinkers (consuming seven or more standard drinks per session).
  • Binge drinking among teenagers is increasing. Between 1995 and 2004, the proportion of young people drinking more than six drinks on a typical occasion increased from:
    • 14% to 25% in 14 –15 year olds
    • 25% to 36% in 16 –17 year olds
    • 31% to 40% in 18 –19 year olds.

What are some of the alcohol-related harms to our communities?

  • Each year, about 1,000 people die due to alcohol. Half of these deaths are from chronic alcohol-related diseases such as cancer. The other half are from injuries.
  • Alcohol is responsible for a net loss of 12,000 years of life each year.
  • In 2005/06:
    • harmful alcohol use cost an estimated $4.4 billion of diverted resources and lost welfare
    • there were 280,429 alcohol-related injury claims to ACC.
  • Alcohol is a factor in one in three of all recorded crimes.

What should the Government do?

  • The Law Commission’s recommendations were designed to be a ‘mutually supportive package’. The Government should accept all 153 recommendations instead of ‘cherry picking’ the least politically risky options, as Law Commission President Sir Geoffrey Palmer warned it not to do.
  • Most importantly, the Government needs to accept the Law Commission’s recommendations for raising prices and restricting marketing. It should also lower the blood alcohol content limits for driving.
  • These issues are all addressed in more detail in separate factsheets.

What should you do?

  • Have your say in creating better alcohol laws by making a written submission to the Select Committee before Tuesday 18 February 2011. This can be as short or long as you like, and you can use this toolkit to help you.
  • Tell the Government that it should accept all 153 of the Law Commission’s recommendations.
  • If you make a written submission, you should also make an oral presentation. You can be as creative as you like. This is your chance to tell your story about the impact of alcohol on your family and community and to tell our politicians about the changes that you want to see.
  • Encourage your friends, family and community to get involved. The more New Zealanders who speak out, the more likely it is that the Government will listen.
  • Ask to meet with or write to your local MP and let them know your views on alcohol law change.

Read the PDF version here