30 Jun 2010

Prominent NZers call for alcohol law reform

11:38 pm on 30 June 2010

A group of prominent New Zealanders wants to get rid of the conscience vote for MPs in relation to alcohol laws.

The 14-member group presented a six-point statement at Parliament on Wednesday, outlining how to dismantle the country's heavy drinking culture.

The group includes former governors-general Sir Paul Reeves and Dame Silvia Cartwright, church leaders and rowing champions Caroline Meyer and Georgina Earl.

They are pressuring the Government to raise the drinking age and increase alcohol prices, as part of its response to the Law Commission's alcohol reform report released in April.

In the statement read by former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves, the group said political parties are using the conscience vote to avoid major social problems. The group is calling for less marketing of alcohol and harsher penalties for drink drivers.

Sir Paul, a Te Atiawa elder, says the report offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse some of the major alcohol liberalisations of the 1980s and 1990s.

He told Waatea News excess consumption of alcohol, especially by young people, runs counter to Maori efforts to foster social and economic development.

Maori leader calls for action on law change

A Maori leader says Maoridom is not doing enough to push for alcohol law reform.

Dame Temuranga Bately-Jackson, a long-serving member of the Parole Board, says Maori need to take responsibility and speak out about how alcohol laws should be changed.

She says the future for Maori is very dependent on the leadership provided now. Dame Temuranga says her experience on the parole board has shown her that most crimes involve alcohol.

The Law Commission recommended raising the price of alcohol by an average of 10% through excise tax increases, returning the minimum purchasing age for alcohol to 20, and restricting opening hours for liquor outlets.

At the time, the Government ruled out an increase in excise tax on liquor.

Justice Minister Simon Power, who is overseeing the reform, said on Wednesday he expected to deliver his response to the Law Commission's report in the next couple of months.