Changes to bar closing hours may be why police have been arresting fewer drunk people, a researcher says.
A recent police-funded survey showed the proportion of people drinking before their arrest fell from 41 percent in 2013 to 30 percent the following year.
More than 800 people who had been arrested were interviewed at four police stations: Auckland, Wellington, Whangarei and Christchurch, between April and July 2014.
The findings were compared to the same time the previous year.
The study showed the percentage of men who drank heavily in the month before their arrest also dropped from 83 to 77 percent.
The study's lead researcher, Chris Wilkins, from Massey University, said the results were surprising.
"This is actually a really surprising result because as you might think amongst arrestees, alcohol is often a big driver and is often a big factor in their arrest, and a lot of arrestees have a very high consumption of alcohol and that's been very consistent over the last three or four years so we don't expect that to really change much," he said.
Dr Wilkins said the drop could be due to a law change introduced in 2013.
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 meant bars closed earlier and faced harsher fines if they served minors or intoxicated patrons.
"When we did some investigation about why that might be, it seemed that maybe changes to the sale and supply of alcohol, particularly the hours that alcohol outlets were allowed to be open might have been a factor in just curtailing that level of heavy drinking to some extent," he said.
"A lot of the measures that were related to that piece of legislation came into effect in the later part of 2013 and that might've affected the level of drinking in early 2014."
The police said further research was needed to determine how much of the decrease the policy change was responsible for.