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Funding granted to study New Zealand’s new alcohol laws

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Monday, 9 June 2014 2:15pm

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Researchers from the University of Otago have been awarded $1.19 million by the Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand to study the effects of the country’s new alcohol legislation.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012) came into full effect last December. A lower blood alcohol limit for drivers aged 20 years and over is expected to be introduced later this year.

Lead investigator Dr Brett Maclennan says the new Act is intended to reduce harm resulting from the excessive consumption of alcohol but it omits almost all of the evidence-based strategies recommended by the Law Commission in its 2010 review. Instead, it focuses on giving communities more input on local alcohol availability.

“A message that came through clearly from residents and local governments in the Law Commission review was they wanted more say in where and when alcohol was sold in their communities. We will investigate whether the legislation achieves this objective.”

The new Act broadens the criteria on which members of the public can object to a liquor licence application or renewal, and provides for local governments to adopt a Local Alcohol Policy. Dr Maclennan says the evaluation will investigate community and local government uptake of the new opportunities provided in the Act and how well this facilitates public input into liquor licensing.

“Local governments were limited in what they could do to reduce alcohol problems under the previous legislation. The new Act in principle gives them additional powers but we’re already seeing appeals against the content of Local Alcohol Policies by the grocery and hospitality sectors. This may undermine the wishes of the community by making it difficult or impossible for local governments to implement strategies that threaten commercial interests.”

Survey and administrative data will be used to estimate how rates of assaults and alcohol-involved traffic crashes change subsequent to the new law.

“The Government said they wanted to strike a balance between public health and commercial interests. This research will investigate how well they have managed to do that,” says Dr Maclennan.

Professor Kypros Kypri, a co-investigator on the project, says that “public desire for better alcohol policy is very strong and people were disappointed at the way the Law Commission recommendations for reform were watered down. It is important to know whether the new law is effective and we are delighted to see independent peer-reviewed research funded in this area.”

For further information, contact:

Dr Brett Maclennan
Tel: 64 3 479 4080
Email: brett.maclennan@otago.ac.nz

Professor Kypros Kypri
Tel: 61 2 4042 0536
Email: kypros.kypri@newcastle.edu.au

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