Sweeping changes to the way alcohol is bought and consumed in New Zealand could be enshrined into legislation if recommendations by the Law Commission are taken up by the Government. Proposed changes included increasing the price of alcohol. Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer outlined some of the preferred policy options it would be releasing for the public to make submissions on, in a speech at a Nelson pub recently. One of the issues tagged ‘for later discussion’ was the substantial gap between the taxes the country received from alcohol purchases, $ 795 million, and the estimated social cost of harmful misuse of alcohol of $ 5.296 billion.
"It does seem to me that the taxpayer should not be asked to shoulder as much of the burden as is currently being met from public funds," Sir Geoffrey said. "It does seem that the case for increasing the price of alcohol to ensure drinkers contribute more to the costs imposed on society is persuasive." He suggested increasing the excise tax would be appropriate.
Nelson’s The Free House pub, which specialises in the sale and promotion of craft beers in a socially responsible environment, has launched a national petition in response to The Law Commission.
“Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s solution to New Zealand’s binge-drinking problem seems to be raising the price of alcohol for everyone,” says Free House co-owner Mic Dover. “The Free House rejects this simplistic approach. Our online petition argues that a 'one size fits all' increase in taxation will have a disastrous effect on New Zealand's boutique breweries - and that these brewers are the ones we should be rewarding - not penalising.”
“Why? Because small boutique and craft breweries emphasise taste, flavour and create environments that encourage sensible and responsible drinking, whereas the Big Two brewers (DB and Lion Nathan - both foreign-owned) discount their beers to gain market share. They tend to target their advertising towards young people and encourage buying decisions made on the basis of price - bang per buck - not beer quality.”
The Free House is promising to lobby MPs and other supporters of great New Zealand craft beers to give tax breaks to small Kiwi-owned brewers. The petition states the following:
Sign our petition if you want New Zealand's craft brewers to survive!
We, the undersigned, call on the New Zealand government not to endanger the survival of the country's fledgling craft beer industry with a 'one size fits all' tax hike. On the contrary we urge the government to follow the UK, the US and Australia in considering tax breaks for small, independent craft breweries.
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