Liquor industry executives have met Justice Minister
Judith Collins and urged her to quash a law change that will
ban the sale of high-strength "alcopops" in bottle stores.
Managing directors from heavyweight drinks companies Bacardi,
Jim Beam, Brown-Forman and Diageo were invited to the Beehive
on Monday to discuss the alcohol reforms due to return to
Parliament later this month.
They have told Mrs Collins policy that restricted the sale of
ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages unfairly targeted one part of
the industry and threatened to breach international trade
The Alcohol Reform Bill would ban off-licence stores from
selling RTDs with more than 6% alcohol content and more than
1.5 standard drinks per container.
Distilled Spirits Association chief Thomas Chin said the
industry was strongly opposed to the amendment, evident in
the fact that senior members of four corporates had met the
"You can well imagine what's at stake for their respective
businesses. We're talking about the highest-ranking officers
- it demonstrates how serious the policy threat is to the
businesses." Mr Chin said the policy undermined the Closer
Economic Relations and the Transtasman Mutual Recognition
trade agreements, both of which aimed to streamline trade
between Australia and New Zealand.
The Ministry of Justice notified the World Trade Organisation
(WTO) in June that its new policy could affect trade of
alcohol products with 6% to 14% alcohol content.
Mrs Collins said alerting the WTO was standard practice.
"This does not mean we believe our proposals to restrict RTDs
would breach any trade rules - in fact. the exact opposite is
the case." In May, the Minister said there was growing
concern about sweet-tasting drinks that were high in alcohol.
In the Law Commission report the reforms were based on, the
commission said the most common drinkers of RTDs were 14 to
24-year-olds, particularly women.
Mr Chin said the industry already self-regulated by setting a
cap of two standard drinks per bottle.
The proposed law change could put a significant dent in sales
of pre-mixed drinks.
Independent Liquor estimated that RTDs made up 12% of the
total alcohol market in New Zealand by volume. Up to 180
million alcopops were sold in New Zealand each year, and more
than half of these had an alcohol content of 6% or more.
The vast majority of sales were believed to be in off-licence
stores, such as convenience stores, supermarkets and bottle
The Government initially proposed restricting all RTDs to no
more than 5% alcohol content. But this was later amended to
6%, with higher strength drinks permitted in restaurants and
Labour Party justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said it was
important that policy focused on RTDs and cheap wine because
research showed they were common choices for young binge
"Any further watering down will simply mean Parliament is
wasting our time with alcohol law reform, in our view."
Current law: No restriction of sale on 'alcopops' from
The proposal: Ban 'alcopops' with a strength of more
than 6% alcohol from bottle shops.
The opposition: Alcohol companies say the proposal
will undermine international trade agreements.