A group of panelists invited to speak at the Otago
University Debating Society's "great alcohol debate" last night
presented a range of views on whether the age at which people
can buy alcohol from off-licences should be raised.
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran told the crowd of about 50
people who attended the debate she would not be voting for a
split purchase age of 18 for on-licence premises, such as
bars, and 20 for off-licences, such as supermarkets, when it
came up for a conscience vote in Parliament soon.
There were better ways to reduce alcohol-related harm, such
as by targeting the price of alcohol and people were
"dreaming" if they thought raising the drinking age would
"fix" New Zealand's drinking culture, Ms Curran said.
"The debate has been hijacked and made into an issue about
age," she said.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he was open to the idea of a
split drinking age if it could help improve civil order and
However, it would be no "silver bullet" and other
mechanisms would be needed to reduce alcohol-related harm, such
as controlling the opening hours of off-licence premises, he
University of Otago director of student health Dr Kim Maiai
said it was possible introducing a split drinking age would
help keep young people safe.
However, because New Zealand would be the first in the world
to introduce a split age system it was difficult to tell what
impact it would have, he said.
When it came to the "great alcohol debate", the group
opposing the split drinking age, made up of debating society
members Kurt Purdon, John Brinsley-Pirie and Hannah Drury,
won the event, based on a show of hands by the audience.
They argued that as 18-year-olds had the right to vote, drive
and work in the sex industry, they should also be able buy
alcohol, and that New Zealand's drinking problem was spread
across the whole society and not just 18 and 19-year-olds.