Major alcohol reforms have been passed in the New Zealand Parliament, concluding a four-year debate over drinking laws. MPs have voted to pass the reforms, which were designed to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said the Alcohol Reform Bill, which was now divided into three bills, struck a ‘sensible balance’ by reducing the serious harm caused by alcohol without penalising people who drank responsibly.
She commented that there will improvements in the way alcohol can be sold and there will be some reforms about young people’s access to alcohol. MPs had voted against a higher purchase age in September.
Ms Collins emphasised the importance of the bill’s local alcohol policies, which gave councils power to set their own alcohol rules in consultation with residents. This could include stricter opening hours for bars or liquor stores or banning bottle shops near schools.
If local authorities did not adopt local policies, they would follow new national rules such as banning bars from opening between 4am and 8am.
The industry will be left to draw up its own voluntary code on the ready to drink category, but Government would step in if it did not think the industry was acting on it.
As well as giving councils a greater say in alcohol policy, the bill bans the sale of alcohol from convenience stores and restricted the promotion and sale of alcohol in supermarkets.
It also required express consent to be given to minors for the consumption of alcohol, which could be provided by parents or guardians in person, in a note, or in a text message or phone call.
Most of the major changes would come into effect in 12 months.