Tax should rise by 50%, says Commission

Tax should rise by 50%, says Commission

A report commissioned by the New Zealand Government has called for strong tax rises on alcoholic drinks, as well as tougher advertising restrictions and a higher minimum drinking age in the country.

Excise tax on alcoholic drinks should rise by 50% in order to curb consumption by increasing the price of drinks, said the New Zealand Law Commission today (27 April).

Its 48-page report, compiled following 3,000 submissions from interested parties, has put forward 153 recommendations on how ministers should combat alcohol-related harm in the country.

As well as higher taxes, the report calls for the legal drinking age to be raised from 18 to 20 years, shorter selling hours for retailers and tougher regulation on advertising and sponsorship. It also calls on Government to "fully investigate a minimum pricing regime".

Law Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer said: "Our reforms are firmly targeted at reducing the harms associated with heavy drinking and drinking to intoxication."

He attacked retailers for selling alcohol cheaper than bottled water.

"One of the consequences of alcohol being promoted and sold at pocket-money prices is that we risk losing sight of its status as a legal drug, capable of causing serious harm to others."

New Zealanders spend NZ$85m (US$61m) per week on alcoholic drinks and per capita consumption rose by 9% between 1998 and 2008, according to the Commission.

Figures in the report show that licences for alcohol sales have doubled to more than 14,000 since 1989, when the Sale of Liquor Act was passed.

Wine trade body New Zealand Winegrowers said today that the Government has indicated that it would be "extremely unlikely" to raise excise tax and will take a "considered approach" to alcohol sales reform.

"Current trading conditions are extremely difficult for wineries and a substantial increase in excise will make it very difficult for some wineries to remain economically viable," said NZ Winegrowers' policy manager Dr John Barker.