With the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act, 2012 replacing the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, Auckland Council (along with other Councils) is also engaged in costly consultation about local alcohol policies and new restrictions to trading hours but it is the continuing ‘sting’ operations (basically ‘entrapment’) that has grown into a vast and expensive bureaucracy.
While the Act’s underlying objectives might make sense -
(a) The sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly; and
(b) The harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised (Sale and Supply of Liquor Act, 2012)
- the law as it stands is clumsy, costly, perverse and punishes the wrong people.
Just prior to Christmas last year, Waiheke Countdown was forced to stop its liquor trading for several days during the festive season because it got caught in a sting operation. That’s where an under 18 year old is (presumably) paid to dress up to look older and to attempt to purchase alcohol, with the onus on the shop itself to spot the difference. Countdown failed the test. So they were punished.
But the punishment doesn’t end there. The shop assistant who failed to ask for ID will almost certainly have lost their job, and maybe the shop manager as well; some businesses will have lost income they can ill afford by having their licence suspended; the law-abiding public are punished because they can’t buy their alcohol from their favourite outlet.
What if the entrapment operation is at a restaurant or vineyard that depends on the seasonal functions market but ends up closed for several days? In terms of lost business, they cop a far more severe penalty than the storekeeper.
And the nonsense doesn’t stop there. Even in an everyday situation, the purchaser of alcohol not only needs to be 18 years old, they need to look at least 25 years old before they are challenged. So, in attempting to catch the under 18 year old, everyone up to 7 years older needs to present one of three photo IDs: passport, NZ Drivers’ Licence or a HANZ (Hospitality New Zealand) card or be denied their purchase. What of the international tourist denied a bottle of wine because they aren’t aware they have to carry their passport around?
In other words, the hassle and the penalties fall heaviest not on the perpetrator but on everyone else.
The police, Auckland Council and the store’s parent company all have powers to carry out sting operations on outlets selling alcohol. Imagine the cost in time, money, and bureaucracy when three organisations are carrying out the same or similar functions!
Does this sort of charade stop a single under 18 years old from imbibing and abusing alcohol? No. But it does cost ratepayers and taxpayers a lot of money, makes us an international mockery and keeps a whole lot of unproductive people in work.
A citizen ID card system operates throughout Europe without any consequent loss of civil liberty. In fact liberty is perversely enhanced by carrying ID cards because it makes a whole host of things less fraudulent. For example postal voting, wide open to fraud, would become a thing of the past (where it belongs) if each person’s unique ID could be used to cast votes.
In contrast, New Zealand’s approach is just the sort of bad law making that punishes the wrong people, encourages rampant bureaucracies, has little or no effect on the problem it is supposed to be solving, and wastes valuable police time that should be spent on catching real criminals.
This from the Herald recently:
Hearings have been set to consider suspending or cancelling liquor licenses for a string of Auckland bars, booze shops and managers.
The hearings, in which police are seeking to have the licences of the bar and or managers cancelled or suspended, will be held before the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority in Auckland in June and July.
Police could not comment on the cases yesterday, saying they were "essentially, matters that are before a court".
The ARLA meets in Auckland about five times a year to hear such applications from police.
Bonnie Johnson is one of the managers police have pinged.
She is the manager of The Grand Hotel Awaroa in Helensville which is also on the licence cutting block.
"We are challenging ours," Ms Johnson said.
"They said we were selling after hours but we weren't."
Ms Johnson said police came to the hotel on a night when a number of bands had played. The bar was closed and no liquor was being sold. However a number of patrons were still in the premises waiting for courtesy vans and sober drivers to pick them up.
Ms Johnson said a fight had erupted down the street so she kept patrons inside, rather than send them out and have them become involved.
"It's a real worry," she said.