Law Commission to do full review of liquor laws

Thursday 7 August 2008, 3:14AM
By Lianne Dalziel
1302 views , 1 comments

The Law Commission will undertake a comprehensive two-and-a-half year review of New Zealand's liquor laws to bring them into line with current community behaviours and concerns around the use of alcohol, Associate Justice Minister Lianne Dalziel announced today.

"There have been many changes in society and many ad hoc changes to the liquor laws since the last comprehensive review (the Laking Report) in the mid-1980s," Lianne Dalziel said.

"The time has come to revisit the legal framework, identify the kinds of outcomes we want from 21st century liquor laws, and have a look at the whole balance of rights and responsibilities again."

The announcement was made in conjunction with the tabling of the government's Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill which will give communities a greater say over when, where and how liquor can be sold and will improve the enforcement of liquor policy.

"This Bill addresses some very important and urgent community concerns while the Law Commission gets on with the job of what is essentially a first principles review of New Zealand's liquor laws," Lianne Dalziel said.

The government has approved the terms of reference for the Law Commission to undertake the review (see below). The project will be led by led by Law Commission President the Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

The Law Commission's brief includes looking at:

* the proliferation of specific types of liquor outlets and the effect this has on consumption;
* the purchase age for alcohol;
* the responsibilities of parents for supervising young members of their family who drink;
* restrictions on trading hours for liquor outlets;
* the relationship between the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002;
* alcohol advertising; and
* the contribution alcohol consumption makes to criminal offending.

"This is a wide-ranging and fundamental review. It's important to note that the Law Commission is independent and will arrive at its conclusions independently of any government department or minister. However, the government will set up an interdepartmental officials’ committee to provide resources and information about a number of difficult issues that arise under the present law," Lianne Dalziel said.

The Law Commission will also assemble reference groups of community, industry and other relevant representatives to be consulted in the course of the review.

"The Commission’s funding has been increased in order to undertake this significant task, which will take between two to three years. The review will start immediately," Lianne Dalziel said.

"This is an important project that bears on many aspects of New Zealand society. I am confident the Law Commission will do a thorough and expert job."

Terms of reference: Law Commission review of regulatory framework for the sale and supply of liquor

1. To examine and evaluate the current laws and policies relating to the sale, supply and consumption of liquor in New Zealand.

2. To consider and formulate for the consideration of Government and Parliament a revised policy framework covering the principles that should regulate the sale, supply and consumption of liquor in New Zealand having regard to present and future social conditions and needs.

3. To deal explicitly with a number of issues, including:

* the proliferation of specific outlets and the effect this has on consumption;
* how the licensing system should be structured and who should be responsible for which aspects of licensing decisions;
* revising the licence renewal and fee framework to consider whether risk can be more appropriately managed and to ensure that the funding of the licensing and enforcement regime is adequate;
* to ensure that unnecessary and disproportionate compliance costs are not imposed by the licensing system;
* the age at which liquor can be purchased;
* the responsibility of parents for supervising young members of their family who drink;
* the influence of excise tax on alcohol and how pricing policies can minimise harm from alcohol consumption;
* advertising of liquor and whether there should be restrictions on discounting alcohol or advertising discounts;
* the relationship between the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002;
* the relationship between the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 and the liquor-related offences in the Summary Offences Act 1981;
* the application of competition law to the sale of liquor;
* the need to ensure the appropriate balance between harm and consumer benefit;
* the health effects of alcohol use and the ways to ameliorate these adverse effects;
* the effects of alcohol use on the level of offending in the community and consideration of measures to minimise such offending; and
* enforcement issues in relation to liquor, including penalties, bans, measures to control alcohol related disorder and to deal with intoxicated people, and methods for preventing the use of fake proof-of-age identification.

4. To prepare an issues paper for publication and take submissions on it, and to engage in extensive public consultation

5. To prepare a final report, including the proposed new policy framework and draft legislation, so that people can judge accurately the precise effects of what is proposed.