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Alcohol law changes won't be in place by Rugby World Cup

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Murray McCully
Murray McCully

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, April 27 NZPA - Those looking for a drink and a good time at the Rugby World Cup should still be able to do so with changes to alcohol laws likely to be implemented slowly.

A Law Commission review on alcohol is to be released today.

It was believed to contain a number of recommendations including raising the alcohol buying age to 20, increasing excise tax on alcohol, changing the open hours for off-licence sales and the closing time for pubs.

Final details of the report will be released this afternoon but ministers were this morning quick to point out the recommendations had not been accepted by the Government.

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said he was not concerned about proposed alcohol law changes because they were on a "slower track".

"I'm not too worried, we'll find our way through it but I haven't seen the report yet."

Any law changes were likely to come into force after the Rugby World Cup, in September and October next year.

"The Minister of Justice told me there's no conflict of timing...he sees a slower track for the law reform recommendations," Mr McCully said.

"I'm approaching this on the basis that holding large rugby gatherings is not an unprecedented activity in New Zealand -- we do it every Friday and Saturday night for the Super 14, we do it for test matches on an even bigger scale.

"The overwhelming experience is that people behave themselves really well, handle access to food and liquor on a responsible basis and I have a great difficulty understanding while people would suddenly behave irresponsibly simply because the tickets are more expensive or because it's called the Rugby World Cup."

Rugby World Cup legislation would be passed to deal with "unforeseen decision making requirements" but it not would depart significantly from current law or the senior bodies that govern it, Mr McCully said.

The legislation was likely to be introduced this week, he said. Similar legislation was passed before the America's Cup.

"There's no suggestion yet that we're going to need those arrangements in the bill that will come in to deal with liquor matters that could be to deal with planning matters of some other sort."

Associate Minister for the Rugby World Cup Gerry Brownlee said it was "early days" and there was no need to panic.

"It's (the Rugby World Cup) going to be a great event, fantastic event," he told reporters.

"The report's just arrived, we're still looking at it, no decisions made."

Rugby World Cup tickets went on sale today. Mr McCully said early indications were good.

The level of sales in New Zealand and internationally were doing well, he said.

The Rugby World Cup 2011 board had to get the ticket price right to cover expenses and fill the stadium.

"We expect them to try and maximise our income but also fill the stadium," Mr McCully said.

Labour leader Phil Goff said it was important to adopt an evidence based approach to any alcohol law changes and that the public have their say through the select committee process.

There was a real problem of alcohol abuse in New Zealand there was no simple solution, he said.

"We need to look at everything that is proposed."

The general public wanted to see the off-licence purchasing age put back to 20 and there was some sense in that, Mr Goff said.

A split drinking age, where 18 and 19-year-olds could drink in bars and restaurants, would not create confusion and puts responsibility on the licensed premises, he said.

"I'm in favour of a stronger response to alcohol abuse in New Zealand, precisely how we do that should be left, I think, to the select committee."

Labour had not decided whether they would make the drinking age a conscious or party vote, Mr Goff said.

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