New research prompts criticism of alcohol law changes

Morning Talk 05/10/2018
Photo: File.

Law changes intended to minimise harm from booze aren’t working, a new study suggests.

The University of Otago study revealed that there was no change in the number of people being hurt as a direct result of recent alcohol intoxication - around one admission in 14.

Otago researcher Dr James Foulds admitted that the results came as a surprise to him.

“The legislation is essentially not doing what it was intended to do,” Dr Foulds told RadioLIVE.

Fewer Kiwis are drinking in licensed premises.

The study collected data before and after the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act 2012 came into effect. The only significant change was in purchasing habits, with more people buying their booze at liquor stores and off-license premises after the law came into effect.

“Alcohol is cheaper to buy in supermarkets and liquor stores; it’s very convenient and available. It’s simple availability and economics,” said Dr Foulds.

Most patients' last drink before ending up in the emergency department was consumed at a private location, not a bar. It is generally much cheaper to buy alcohol at an off-licence than at a licenced venue.

Christchurch City Council attempted to tighten up its local alcohol controls in 2013, but was put on hold after being challenged in court.

“I think the Government needs to look at the way the legislation is structured,” Dr Foulds said, remarking that many councils have failed to set up local alcohol policies.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 was designed to give councils the ability to adopt their own alcohol policies. However, the Act also allows for proposed policies to be contested in court.

“It’s effectively a failure of democracy,” said Dr Foulds.  

Fewer than one-in-three local authorities have managed to put in Local Alcohol Policies, according to Sally Casswell of Massey University.

She agrees that the 2012 legislation needs some work.

"The decision to allow an appeal against local authorities' Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act has resulted in unusual visibility of the influence process,” she said. 

Listen to the full interview with James Foulds above.

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