Two of the largest local councils in New Zealand, representing 40% of the national population, are supporting MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s Private Members’ Bill “The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill”. They further request that the Government review the country’s liquor laws.

Alcohol policy momentum is growing in New Zealand as two of the country’s largest local councils have joined to support Member of Parliament Chlöe 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.

Auckland City Council and Christchurch City Council represent about 40% of the population in New Zealand. Councillor Josephine Bartley led the support in Auckland, while Mayor Lianne Dalziel led in Christchurch.

The measures in the Bill include:

  • Removing the appeals process from Local Alcohol Policies, which has been used extensively by supermarket and bottle store retailers backed by the Big Alcohol lobby to prevent or delay evidence-based public health action regarding local alcohol availability,
  • End alcohol sponsorship of broadcast sport, and
  • Strengthen the criteria for District Licensing Committees to consider when making decisions on applications for a license to sell alcohol.

Alcohol Healthwatch welcomed and commended this initiative by the two councils.

The decision sends a strong message that leaders in Ōtautahi Christchurch are rightly concerned about alcohol harm and want to see change,” said Dr. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, as per Scoop Regional.

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.”

Dr. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director, Alcohol Healthwatch

Christchurch City Council is one of three lead agencies implementing the Christchurch Alcohol Action Plan. The objectives of the plan include “advocating for a reduction in alcohol marketing at a local and national level” and “seeking to shift the culture of alcohol use by reducing alcohol advertising”.

Alcohol Healthwatch supports Minister Faafoi’s interest in reviewing liquor laws in New Zealand.

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,” said Dr. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, as per Scoop Regional.

Dr. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director, Alcohol Healthwatch

Alcohol policy in New Zealand

As the World Health Organization (WHO) reports, in 2016 the total per capita alcohol consumption in New Zealand was 10.7 liters. This is above the average of the WHO Western Pacific Region. Over half of 15 to 19-year-old young people who consume alcohol (54.4%) engage in binge alcohol use.

©WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

A previous study by Alcohol Healthwatch found that alcohol has gotten ultra-cheap over the years in New Zealand. For example, many of New Zealand’s most popular brands of beer, wine, Ready-to-drink products (RTDs), and spirits were sold at $1.30 or less per standard unit.

Supermarkets were found to offer the lowest-price alcohol products, often at considerably lower prices than the alcohol prices found in bottle stores. Multi-buy promotions offered the lowest of all prices per standard unit for wine (81c) and beer (85c).

Our environments are swamped with cheap alcohol that is readily accessible and pervasively advertised,” said Dr. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, as per Scoop Regional.

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. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch

Alcohol advertising is rampant and self-regulated by the alcohol industry itself. Public health priorities are lacking in these voluntary advertising codes. Evidence shows that self-regulation is no regulation.

Dr. Nicki Jackson and colleagues recently published a letter in the New Zealand Medical Journal. It has the telling title “Ineffective, meaningless, inequitable: analysis of complaints to a voluntary alcohol advertising code”. According to the analysis laid out in the letter, Big Alcohol violates its own codes of conduct in multiple and systematic ways: 

  • Promotion of health and lifestyle benefits of alcohol,
  • Promotion of alcohol as a coping mechanism,
  • Sexualisation of women,
  • Location of billboards very close to school grounds,
  • Promotion of alcohol consumption games, and
  • Using “heroes of the young” to promote alcohol.

The harm from these violations is also well documented. According to research presented in The Conversation last year, children were exposed to an average of 46 ads for unhealthy products every day including 12 alcohol ads.

12 Ads/Day
Big Alcohol targets kids
Children are exposed to an average of 12 alcohol ads per day.

It is evident that New Zealand needs to improve alcohol policy solutions to protect people and communities from the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry.

And communities in New Zealand have been calling for alcohol advertising limits similar to the rules for tobacco advertising. Banning or comprehensively regulating alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion is one of the three best to buy policy solutions, recommended by the World Health Organization to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

Alcohol Lobby Delays Local Alcohol Policy Solutions in New Zealand For Seven Years (And Counting)

Alcohol industry interference on all levels is a big obstacle in New Zealand, hindering alcohol policy development.

For example, the Big Alcohol lobby has been delaying the Auckland council from implementing its own provisional local alcohol policy (PLAP) for seven years – and counting.

The policy was approved by the Auckland Council seven years ago, but it never came into effect. Vested interests, including alcohol producers and supermarkets, have been delaying implementation through appeals and court cases.

When the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was passed in 2012, it had promised communities they would have a say over how liquor was sold and controlled in their neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the alcohol lobby has thwarted the efforts of local councils through expensive legal challenges. While Big Alcohol has the money to fund these legal battles, it is a significant burden for local councils.

The Auckland Council says attempts to delay the policy by the alcohol lobby have cost tax payers $1 million in legal fees.

What has resulted is costly and time-consuming legal challenges that [are] devoid of community engagement,” said the Auckland Council, as per stuff.

Auckland Council

The Court of Appeal voted in favor of the Auckland Council in September 2021. But now the council is waiting to hear if the alcohol lobby and supermarkets would take the appeal to the Supreme Court.

This is why the Auckland Council supports MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s Private Members’ Bill. If this Bill is passed it would remove the appeals process from Local Alcohol Policies, which would stop alcohol industry interference, save taxpayers money and benefit communities.


Scoop Regional: “New Zealand’s Two Largest Councils Call For Alcohol Law Reform

stuff: “Legal challenges against Auckland Council’s local alcohol policy cost ratepayers over $1m