Thank you for inviting me here today.
I’d like to start by acknowledging the important role that licensing trusts have and all that you do for our communities. As we all know, the primary focus for all licensing trusts is the well-being of our communities, with all profits being returned to the community. Putting it simply, you do a lot of good!
Today I would like to talk primarily about my role as the Minister responsible for the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. I’m also going to discuss what the Government is doing to address alcohol-related harm and to support responsible alcohol consumption.
As you are all well aware, the Act provides the legal framework for licensing trusts. Whilst licensing trusts are varied, all have a long history in New Zealand before the current 2012 Act.
As the responsible Minister I have a key role under the Act in relation to licensing trusts. That role includes making recommendations about matters to assist with the smooth operation of licensing trusts, including constituting, varying and amalgamating them if required.
Licensing trusts have been operating successfully in New Zealand for over 70 years. The Invercargill Licensing Trust was the first to be established, in 1944, and remains the largest in the country. Invercargill, and the others that followed, provided a new way of licensing the sale and supply of alcohol. They promoted an alternative to private licensing, based on liquor licensing systems in the United Kingdom.
Licensing trusts have made, and continue to make, all kinds of positive contributions to our communities – from providing education grants, to promoting tourism, to helping to run important community services.
New Zealand’s modern alcohol law is also about communities. It’s about encouraging responsible drinking, reducing alcohol-related harm and recognising that we all have a part to play in those things.
The Government recognises that for most New Zealanders, alcohol provides positive and safe social experiences. Most New Zealanders don’t drink to excess. But for some, their experiences of alcohol are far from positive. There is clear evidence showing that problem drinking can cause harm in New Zealand’s communities.
We are making some progress. For example, we know that drink-driving charges have halved since 2009. However, there is further progress to be made, particularly in the areas of crime and health.
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was the largest reform of alcohol legislation, and largest legislative attempt to reduce alcohol-related harm, in a generation. The Act was the outcome of the Law Commission’s comprehensive review of New Zealand’s alcohol law. It came into force in 2013, replacing the Sale of Liquor Act 1989.
The Act provides a strong legislative framework for reducing harm, without unfairly restricting alcohol use by responsible drinkers, and allows for a thriving hospitality sector.
One of the key concerns of communities has been the effects of alcohol on young people. While the reforms did not change the purchase age they made a number of changes to limit the harm of alcohol on young people.
For example, the Act makes adults’ responsibilities clear and provides them with control over their children’s drinking. Anyone who supplies alcohol to minors must have consent from the minor’s parent or guardian.
It also places strong controls on advertising and the promotion of alcohol to limit the harm of advertising. It prohibits advertising or promoting alcohol in a way that appeals to minors.
The Act promotes community involvement and decision-making. It encourages communities to decide what’s best for them by creating their own local alcohol policies. Local alcohol policies give people more say about where and when alcohol can be sold in their area.
Communities are able to restrict or extend trading hours of licensed premises, or impose other conditions on licensed premises, for example one-way door policies. Through local alcohol policies, communities can also limit the location and density of licences.
Communities also have greater control over licensing because applications for licences are decided locally, by District Licensing Committees. There are also broader criteria for objecting to licence applications.
The Act made a number of other important changes. There are tighter restrictions on the types of premises that can sell alcohol and when they can sell it. For example, there are national maximum hours for alcohol sales.
We have a risk-based licence regime where licence fees reflect risk factors. This takes into account things such as venue type, venue capacity, trading hours and the previous conduct of a licence.
Furthermore, licensees have a new set of obligations that require them to demonstrate they’re providing responsible drinking environments and are complying with the law.
The Government is also investing in services to reduce alcohol-related harm. For example, as part of Budget 2016, Government provided $12 million to expand an alcohol and drug support programme for pregnant women. The Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, also announced this year that the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court pilot has been extended for a further three years.
The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts operate in the Waitakere and Auckland District Courts. They aim to help reduce alcohol and drug dependencies by referring them to treatment under the supervision of the Court.
While safe and responsible drinking cannot be achieved by law alone, the law provides many parts of society with the tools to do this. It’s everyone’s responsibility to use these tools to make it happen.
Again, thanks for the invitation to speak to you here today. I’ve enjoyed meeting and chatting with many of you, and I hope the rest of the Conference goes well for everyone.