Practical political solution

John Key
John Key
Prime Minister John Key delivered some welcome news to rugby fans when he announced the Government is planning to urgently change liquor laws to allow pubs to stay open for early morning Rugby World Cup games.

Most of the All Black games at the World Cup in Britain are outside the maximum default hours of 8am to 4am, leaving bars having to apply for special licences to open for the rugby matches.

The Government stepped in after the Green Party vetoed the first attempt by Act New Zealand leader David Seymour to introduce a personal Bill into Parliament on Tuesday to keep the bars open during the Cup.

The Greens called Mr Seymour's Bill a publicity stunt as the party continues to misread the mood of the country.

Like it or not, the Rugby World Cup will be an important part of the country's pysche in coming weeks.

Enabling people to gather together to watch the matches, at a bar, is unlikely to create major health issues.

But that changed yesterday when Mr Seymour reintroduced his Bill and the Greens supported it going to a select committee.

The Greens say they are confident of getting changes at select committee level, but must be careful not to further alienate sports lovers.

Labour had agreed to support Mr Seymour's Bill with leader Andrew Little saying he would think about having a beer at 5am with friends when the All Blacks are playing.

In fact, if they were losing, he might consider two beers.

Sensible thinking from two men who understand not everyone has access to pay television which has the only channels on which the games will be shown in New Zealand.

Mr Key forced the issue by speaking to Justice Minister Amy Adams about drafting a Bill to allow all bars to open outside normal hours for some of the tournament's games.

There is no indication yet of which matches, but even if bars can open for the All Black games only, it is a major win for common sense.

One of the important issues to consider is although many Kiwis have Sky TV, including the sports channel, not everyone has access to the Cup games.

Free-to-air rugby games were available at the last World Cup held in New Zealand, but not this time.

Bars are the natural gathering places of people wanting to see the games on a big screen.

Alcohol is only the secondary factor with bar owners saying they made more money out of food than from drink during the Football World Cup last year.

And there will be people who have a few drinks as the All Blacks play but this comes down to individual responsibility.

Bar owners have strict laws to follow when it comes to serving alcohol to people who are drunk and are bound to follow those rules or face an enforced closure.

Most New Zealanders are responsible drinkers and there are many who like to celebrate sporting victories with a drink with their mates, even if it is at 5am.

Labour has made the vote on the new Bill a conscience issue but Mr Little goes further by wanting the new legislation to be broadened to include other national sporting events like Netball World Cup finals and the Olympics - at the discretion of the government of the day.

Pay television is expensive for many people and the opportunity for Kiwis to share the excitement of New Zealanders winning overseas is one to cherish.

But the Greens still want unnecessary restrictions placed upon the legislation by calling for restricting the geographic areas where bars can open and restricting applications to bars having good records.

Mr Key acknowledged pubs could already apply for special licences and many had done this during the Football World Cup last year.

The problem is many bars from one end of the country to the other want to open for the Rugby World Cup.

That will place a lot of costs and regulations and time on the publicans but also cause a log-jam in local bodies tasked with dealing with the applications.

With the World Cup so close, there is no time for those applications to be processed.

Instead, Mr Key has delivered a practical political solution and Mr Seymour's Bill will proceed as planned.

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