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Sally Casswell and Krishna Bhatta
Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, May 2001


The Auckland Alcohol Environment 1990-1999  
Management of the Licensed Drinking Environment  
Drink-Driving Legislation  
Comparison between Auckland and New Zealand data  
Economic conditions in Auckland  

The annual Auckland tracking surveys were developed to monitor trends in drinking patterns, alcohol-related problems and related issues.  The surveys began in November 1990 and this report examines the trends that have emerged over the ten years from 1990 to 1999, inclusive.  The telephone surveys were based on samples randomly selected from the Auckland free-calling area.

The Auckland Alcohol Environment 1990-1999

These surveys began after the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 came into force on 1 April 1990.  Although the first survey was in November 1990, it may be viewed as a benchmark since law changes lifting restrictions on numbers of licences and hours of trading did not immediately have a widespread effect and changes occurred gradually as individual applications went through the licensing process. 

The Sale of Liquor Act 1989 liberalised New Zealand’s traditionally restrictive licensing regime. By 1995 the number of on- and off-licensed premises and clubs selling alcohol in Auckland City had almost doubled.  Many traditional pubs were replaced by smaller independently-owned premises and, from around 1995, the number of licensed cafés and café-bars increased, particularly in the inner city.  The doubling of off-licensed outlets in the Auckland area included supermarkets and other main grocery outlets permitted to sell wine from 1990 and, following the 1996 and 1999 elections, new alcohol outlets in former ‘dry’ areas in the central suburbs.

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.  Pubs and taverns, whose main business was the sale of liquor, were restricted to those aged over 20.  The 1989 Act increased access to nightclubs for young people by allowing access for the purposes of entertainment.  By the later years of the study period, this access had been restricted as many late night Auckland premises had obtained a ‘supervised’ licence designation allowing the sale of alcohol to 18-19 year olds present ‘for the purposes of dining’.  Mixed drinks known as alcopops, ready to drinks and shooters were introduced into New Zealand in 1995 and were heavily promoted.  There was a law change on December 1, 1999 that reduced the drinking age to 18. The timing of this change was such that it had no effect on the survey data.

Management of the Licensed Drinking Environment

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 premises.
Management of the licensed drinking environment has been addressed through host responsibility training for bar staff and managers (non-mandatory) and developing more effective monitoring and enforcement strategies through Liquor Licensing Liaison Teams and the use of Last Drink Surveys.


Another change since 1990 that may have influenced consumption was the introduction of alcohol brand advertising in the broadcast media from February 1992.  This led to a 42% increase in advertising expenditure and a fourfold increase in televised alcohol advertising in the first 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 and the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA).  The ratio of counter-advertising to commercial advertising has been about 1:10 over the decade.

Drink-Driving Legislation

A further change during this period was the introduction of Compulsory Breath Testing (CBT) 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. 

Comparison between Auckland and New Zealand data

Data on alcohol available for consumption gathered from production, import and export which are available only on a national basis suggest a decline in consumption across the decade.  However, the estimates of consumption by the Auckland population based on these surveys indicate that there has not been a corresponding decline in this region.  This may in part reflect more buoyant economic circumstances in Auckland illustrated by measures of consumer confidence and a slightly lower unemployment rate during much of the decade (see Appendix A for further discussion of this).  However, the main influence has been demographic change.  Over the decade the percentage of the population of Auckland who had higher incomes and university qualifications increased (see Appendix B for further details).  These changes have influenced the patterns of alcohol consumption seen in Auckland over the decade.

Economic conditions in Auckland

Economic conditions to a large extent mirrored those of the country as a whole, with a recession in the first part of the decade followed by recovery and employment growth thereafter.  Between 1990 and 1993 during the economic recession the middle and lower income groups in Auckland experienced a decline in the real value of their incomes.  The decline was of the order of 14.9% for the lower income group and 5.9% for the middle income group.  The higher income group’s average income increased in real terms, by 3.6%.  This was followed by general income growth in the middle and late 1990s.  In 1999, the average incomes of the low, middle and high income groups were $5,800, $30,300 and $83,600 respectively.  These income levels were 14%, 25% and 38% higher respectively than they had been in 1993. 

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