Case for Change

Many New Zealanders consume alcohol in outdoor public places.

There may be bans on alcohol consumption in some outdoor spaces, in certain times of the day or year.

Large gatherings of people in outdoor spaces can present risks for alcohol-related harm. This is especially so during festive occasions such as New Year's Eve. 

Alcohol use poses high risks at events that involve water-based activities. Impairment begins well below intoxication levels - this is very important to keep in mind.

Alcohol plays a role in New Zealand's horrific drowning statistics.

Alcohol and the great outdoors

New Zealand has amazing outdoor areas (regional parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes, etc.).

Drinking alcohol in these areas present a number of inherent risks to users. Just like local Councils can implement alcohol bans in public places such as beaches, so too can Regional Councils in the parks and open spaces that they manage.

To find out more, check out the  sub-section on alcohol and public places as well as addressing alcohol use in public places through using liquor bylaws.

Alcohol use in the great outdoors

When New Zealand drinkers were asked about the locations that they drank alcohol (in 2007/08), around 15% of past-year drinkers reported drinking in outdoor public places.

Alcohol use at beaches

As stated above, many beaches may have alcohol bans which prohibit drinking in certain times of the day or year.

Binge drinking may occur in the great outdoors, especially when there are gatherings of many people. 

Excessive use of alcohol in public places may cause significant alcohol-related problems and public disorder especially during festive occasions such as New Year's Eve. Alcohol-related problems have also occurred on National Crate Day in previous years:

  • In 2016, there were 29 arrests, 6 people were treated for lacerations on their feet caused by broken bottles, and one person was hospitalised for alcohol poisoning.
  • In 2015, a police riot squad was called to Manly Beach (also in Hibiscus Coast, Auckland), where over 300 people were drinking, to restore order.  

In 2017, the Police decided to impose a temporary alcohol ban on the parks and beaches of the Hibiscus Coast over the first weekend of December, in order to prevent the problems of previous years.  

Alcohol use and water sports

Alcohol use may pose certain risks when performing outdoor activities. Impairment begins well below intoxication levels - this is very important to keep in mind.

The following information was cited in the report Alcohol, Injuries and Violence:

Alcohol use is a risk factor in drowning, with the risk increasing as blood alcohol content increases. Drinking is associated with a 10-fold increase in reckless behaviour such as the violation of safety rules and swimming in unauthorised areas . Blood alcohol levels of 100mg/dl (BAC 0.10) or greater increases the risk of drowning by 16 times.

Between 2008 and 2012, 13% of all drowning deaths were alcohol-related. This equates to 71 lives. Alcohol is considered to be a factor in poor supervision of children who have drowned.

More than half of these occurred during swimming, fishing and accidentally falling into water. Higher rates are particularly found among Māori, Pacifica, males and young adults.

Drinking on boats causes around three deaths each year in New Zealand.

Alcohol is also implicated in land-based fishing drownings, paddle-sports fatalities and underwater activities.

Skippers of recreational boats are not bound by a legal blood alcohol limit. 

The economic cost of a fatal drowning is estimated at $3.4 million.

There is limited data on alcohol-related non-fatal drownings, near drownings and other aquatic injuries.


Browne ML, Lewis-Michl EL, Stark AD. Watercraft-related drownings among New York state residents, 1988–1994. Cited in Alcohol, Boating and Water recreation facts. European Child Safety Alliance. 2011.
Bell NS, Amoroso PJ, Yore MM, et al. Alcohol and other risk factors for drowning among male active duty U.S. army soldiers. Aviation, Space and Environmental Medicine 2001;72(12):1086-1095.
DrownBase™-Water Safety New Zealand. DrownBase™. 2012. 
Maritime New Zealand. Boating Safety Strategy: 2007 Review of the New Zealand Pleasure Boating Safety Strategy. Wellington: Maritime New Zealand, 2008.
Chalmers D, Morrison L. Epidemiology of non-submersion injuries in aquatic sporting and recreational activities. Sports Medicine 2003;33(10):745-70.
Davis M, Warner M, Ward B. Snorkelling and scuba diving deaths in New Zealand, 1980-2000. South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society 2002;32(2):70-80.
DrownBase™-Water Safety New Zealand. DrownBase™. 2012.