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Alcohol law changes for the public - December 2013

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On 18 December 2013, New Zealand's alcohol laws are changing.

The reforms, introduced by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, aim to improve New Zealand's drinking culture and reduce the harm caused by excessive drinking.

This is a summary of the main changes that affect the general public from 18 December.

A summary of main changes that affect the alcohol industry is also available.

Trading hours

New maximum trading hours apply to businesses that sell alcohol:

  • 8am - 4am for on-licences and clubs (such as bars, pubs and nightclubs)
  • 7am – 11pm for off-licences (such as bottle stores, supermarkets and grocery stores)

From 18 December 2013, the licensed businesses you drink or shop at may change their operating hours or the times they sell alcohol.

Local councils may set different trading hours as part of a local alcohol policy. Check with your council to see if it is putting a policy in place.

Not your kid? Not your call

The new law puts more limits on young people accessing alcohol, places more responsibility on those who provide alcohol to them, and gives parents more control.

You can only supply alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years if:

  • you are their parent or legal guardian; OR
  • you have express consent from their parent or legal guardian; OR
  • the young person is married, in a civil union or living with a de facto partner

Express consent may include a personal conversation, an email or a text message that you have good reason to believe is genuine.

The law applies to everyone, regardless of their age, who supplies alcohol to a young person. Unless you are certain you have permission from a minor's parent or legal guardian, don't give alcohol to anyone under 18.

The penalty for breaching the law is a fine of up to $2,000.

Supply alcohol responsibly

Anyone (including parents) who supplies alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years must do so responsibly.

For example, you should make sure food and non-alcoholic drinks are available, arrange safe transport, and take steps to supervise the drinking and limit the strength and amount of alcohol that's supplied.

The penalty for failing to supply alcohol responsibly is a fine of up to $2,000.

New on-the-spot fines

You may be given an infringement notice and have to pay a fine if you:

  • drink or have an open container of alcohol anywhere in a public place in a liquor ban area. This now includes locations such as car parks and school grounds, not just streets and parks.
  • present a fake ID
  • use someone else's ID to buy alcohol
  • give or lend an ID to an underage person if you know they intend to use it to buy alcohol

The penalty for breaching these laws is an infringement fee of $250.

Intoxicated people will not be served

If you are intoxicated, staff of licensed businesses cannot serve you or allow you to remain on the premises. This is the same as the previous law.

However, the new Act clearly defines "intoxicated." This means you may be refused service, asked to leave or be removed if you are affected by alcohol or other drugs or substances and you are displaying two or more of the following conditions:

  • affected appearance
  • impaired behaviour
  • impaired co-ordination, or
  • impaired speech

Other changes

The new Act also gives communities more say on alcohol licensing, such as determining maximum trading hours in their area, limiting the location of licensed premises near certain facilities such as schools and widening the grounds for objecting to licences. More information is available here. A timeline of key changes that have come into effect since the Act was passed in December 2012 is available here.

Resources and useful information

The Health Promotion Agency has a range of resources and publications designed to help people understand and comply with the new laws. See the agency's website at

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