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National Surveys Comparison 1995 & 2000
Ruth Habgood, Sally Casswell, Megan Pledger and Krishna Bhatta,  
Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, November 2001


This report provides a picture of the changes in alcohol use in New Zealand, from the results of two national surveys, held in 1995 and 2000. The purpose of the current report is to provide up-to-date national data from 2000 and also to highlight changes from 1995.
The survey provides information on drinking patterns, allowing consideration of both how often people are drinking and also how heavy or light their drinking occasions are. It also collects information on drinking patterns in different drinking locations, and about enforcement of the drinking laws and behaviour known in New Zealand as ‘host responsibility’. These data therefore provide useful feedback on environmental characteristics known to shape drinking behaviour.
The report details age differences separately for men and women, as age and gender are personal characteristics which predict different drinking patterns and experience of alcohol-related problems.
Significant regional differences and differences by level of urbanisation are also commented on. Data were also collected from additional Maori samples and this will be reported separately.
The changes introduced by the Sale of Liquor Act (1989), which came into force in April 1990, had created a very liberal alcohol environment in New Zealand by 1995, the time of the first data collection. The Act removed any controls on the density of alcohol outlets and since then the number of on- and off-licensed premises in New Zealand has increased markedly. Many traditional pubs have been replaced by smaller, independently owned premises and there are more licensed cafés and café-bars, particularly in the urban areas. New off-licenses included supermarkets and superettes/grocery stores, which were allowed to sell wine from 1990.
Alcohol availability was also increased by lifting restrictions on hours of trading, allowing some licensees to operate 24 hours a day. Late-night trading by nightclub-style premises increased and premises were able to obtain a ‘supervised’ license designation allowing the sale of alcohol to 18-19 year olds. Those aged 18-19 were also able to drink with a meal in restaurants. ‘Alcopops’ or mixed ready-to-drink beverages were introduced into New Zealand in 1995. In 1995 the purchase of alcohol from premises such as pubs and taverns whose main business was the sale of alcohol, was restricted to those aged 20 and over. However, a number of complex exemptions were in place (including if an older spouse, parent or guardian was present) leading some to suggest that the de facto drinking age was 18 years.
In 1999, between the first and second surveys, the Sale of Liquor Act was again amended, this time removing any restraints on purchasing by those aged 18–19 years. This was accompanied by the establishment in the Act of appropriate age identification, but there was no mandatory requirement on licensees to ask for I.D. An additional provision was made for police to give infringement notices to minors, in or purchasing alcohol from, licensed premises. The same infringement notice provisions were also adopted in the Summary Offences Act for those under 18 years drinking alcohol in a public place. The 1999 Sale of Liquor Act amendments also allowed the sale of beer (but not spirits) in supermarkets and the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
Management of Drinking Premises
As part of the 1989 Sale of Liquor Act, the regulatory framework was enlarged through a local level of licensing administration and monitoring, and by provisions in the Act directed at encouraging healthier drinking environments. The latter included host responsibility requirements, such as the provision of food and non-alcoholic beverages by all on-licensed and club premises. The 1999 Sale of Liquor Act amendments also required on-licensed premises, as a condition of licence, to provide information on, or assistance with, alternative forms of transport from their premises.
Management of the licensed drinking environment has been addressed through host responsibility training for bar staff and managers, although this has been non-mandatory.
There has also been the development in some parts of the country of more effective monitoring and enforcement strategies through Liquor Licensing Liaison Teams and the use of Last Drink Surveys (Stewart et al, 1993).
A major change that occurred in 1992, and has contributed to a liberal alcohol environment, was the introduction of alcohol brand advertising in the broadcast media. This led to a 42% increase in advertising expenditure and a fourfold increase in televised alcohol advertising in the first three years. Expenditure has stayed at about the same level since. Liquor producers moved out of pub ownership to focus on product marketing through chains of large off-licensed outlets and brand advertising on television. Some free broadcasting time was made available for counter-advertising as part of the policy change and this has been utilised by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) and the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA). The ratio of counter-advertising to commercial advertising has, however, been about 1:10 over the decade.
Marketing also takes place in retail outlets. The Sale of Liquor Act Amendment (1999) makes it an offence to hold promotions that are intended to, or are likely to, encourage the excessive consumption of alcohol.
Drink-driving Legislation
Compulsory Breath Testing (CBT) had been introduced in April 1993. Alongside the CBT operations, the LTSA has run advertising campaigns whose focus is on deterring people from drinking and driving. Graduated driver licences were introduced in 1998 with all drivers under 20 required to have a lower blood alcohol level than adults.
Economic Conditions in New Zealand
In 1995 the country was experiencing an economic recovery following a recession in the first part of the decade. In 1995, unemployment stood at 7.5%. The period between the two surveys was marked by the Asian economic crisis, but by 2000 economic conditions had improved and unemployment had fallen to 5.6% (Statistics New Zealand, 2000a). Consumer confidence was also strong at these times: the WestpacTrust McDermott Miller Consumer Confidence Survey (WestpacTrust, 2001) showed relatively high levels of confidence in both December 1995 and December 2000.

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