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New Zealand’s Two Largest Councils Call For Alcohol Law Reform

Alcohol Healthwatch is thrilled that Christchurch City Council has joined Auckland Council in supporting MP Chle Swarbrick’s Private Members’ Bill "The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill" (the Bill), and to request that the Government review the country’s liquor laws.

The Bill seeks to remove the appeals process from Local Alcohol Policies, which has been used extensively by supermarket and bottle store retailers to prevent or delay strong regulation of local alcohol availability. The Bill also seeks to end alcohol sponsorship of broadcast sport as well as strengthen the criteria for District Licensing Committees to consider when making decisions on applications for a licence to sell alcohol.

Dr Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, says, "We warmly congratulate Mayor Lianne Dalziel, who brought forward the recommendation, and Christchurch City Councillors who voted in support. Their leadership in protecting every community in Ōtautahi from alcohol-related harm is to be commended and follows the same strong support shown by Auckland Council (and led by Councillor Josephine Bartley) exactly two weeks ago."

With New Zealand’s two largest Councils requesting alcohol law change, representing over 40% of the national population, Alcohol Healthwatch looks forward to the local MPs getting behind the proposed Bill, sooner rather than later.

Supporting the Council ahead of their decision, Alcohol Healthwatch urged Councillors to continue to show strong leadership by supporting the Bill and calling for a wide review of the country’s liquor laws as a step toward supporting healthier environments free from the harms of alcohol.

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"The decision sends a strong message that leaders in Ōtautahi Christchurch are rightly concerned about alcohol harm and want to see change. Local governments need to be empowered to protect their communities but are powerless to do so with our weak alcohol laws and endless avenues of litigation available to well-resourced alcohol retailers."

"Our environments are swamped with cheap alcohol that is readily accessible and pervasively advertised. Communities struggle to have their voice heard in policy decisions. Strong regulation is urgently required to protect communities and reduce inequities in alcohol harm that are disproportionately experienced by Māori, Pacific people and low income communities," Dr Jackson said.

Christchurch City Council is one of three lead agencies implementing the Christchurch Alcohol Action Plan. Part of the plan is to "advocate for a reduction in alcohol marketing at a local and national level" and to "seek to shift the culture of drinking by reducing alcohol advertising". Alcohol Healthwatch supports this evidence-based strategy and wants to see an end to the glamourisation of alcohol through sport.

"We welcome the growing calls for alcohol law change across a broad range of sectors - from all 20 DHB Chief Executives, Primary Health Organisations, NGOs, and local government. It is well past time for communities to be afforded better protections from alcohol, our most harmful drug. We support Minister Faafoi in his interest in reviewing our liquor laws this Parliamentary term and look forward to the implementation of best practice alcohol regulation that will bring about substantial physical and mental health gains for our communities", ends Dr Jackson.

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