Case for Change

Reducing the availability of alcohol in your community

The more that alcohol is available in a community, the higher the levels of harm it is likely to experience.

Availability of alcohol can be reduced by:

  • limiting the the number of places that sell alcohol
  • Reducing the number of hours that a licensed premises is open
  • Placing conditions on a liquor licence

This section explains why each of these strategies is important.

Limiting the number of places that sell alcohol

The more alcohol outlets in an area, the more hazardous drinking occurs and therefore more harm.

When a community has a high number of places that sell alcohol (licensed premises), the more likely that community will experience alcohol-related harms such as violence, assaults, drink driving, child maltreatment.

 A high number of places that sell alcohol is also linked to heavy drinking among adolescents.

When a community has a lot of places that sell alcohol, it is often found that alcohol is sold at cheaper prices due to competition. Low prices of alcohol are linked to alcohol harm.

Having a high number of places that sell alcohol may also have a negative impact on the amenity and good order in a community - this is because heavy drinkers may cause violence, street disturbance, litter, vomit, property damage, etc.

In New Zealand, it has been found that there are more places that sell alcohol in low income communities [1]. It has also been shown [2] that young Māori and Pacific males (i.e. 15-24 years) and young European females are most affected by living in communities with a high number of places that sell alcohol. 

Click here to go to the Reference list

Reducing the number of hours that a licensed premises is open

In New Zealand, the number of hours that a licensed premises is open is determined by our alcohol laws - the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

If a Local Council does not have a Local Alcohol Policy, then the default maximum national trading hours are:

  • On-licences (bars, nightclubs, taverns, etc) and club licences – 8am to 4am
  • Off-licences (supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle stores) – 7am to 11pm

These are maximum trading hours so it doesn’t mean that a premises will be allowed to open for these hours. Their licence will specify times that they are able to sell alcohol.

There are also special requirements relating to certain public holidays (e.g. Easter, Anzac Day).  Click here to read more. 

You can influence the trading hours of a licensed premises in your community by objecting to a licence application or renewal.


Alcohol-related offending increases for every hour a premises is open after midnight.

Compared to licensed premises which close at 12am or earlier, a study in Australia [3] found that the expected rate of offending increased at the following rate:

Compared to premises which close before midnight                               The risk of offending is

12:01 am and 1 am                                                                                              1.6 times greater

1:01 am and 2 am                                                                                                2.2 times greater

3:01 am and 5 am                                                                                                8.9 times greater

A New Zealand study [4] found that drinkers who bought alcohol after 2am from on-licences were 2.9 times more likely to drink high amounts of alcohol compared to those who purchased before 2am. They were also twice as likely to drink frequently.

When on-licence hours are reduced, studies generally find that alcohol-related harms are reduced. For example a study [5] in Newcastle, Australia, found that there was a 37% decrease in assaults when their premises reduced their trading hours in the early hours of the morning.  These positive changes have been maintained five-years later.


Having later opening hours can reduce the exposure of alcohol (and its advertising) to children on their journey from home to school. This suggests that it would be ideal if all off-licences remained closed until after 9am or 10am, once children have made their way to school. It would also be useful for them to close when children leave school (i.e. between 3 to 4pm).

Research has documented the association between exposure to alcohol advertising around schools and increased intentions to use alcohol among very young adolescents [6]. Exposure to in-store displays of alcohol have also been found to increase the likelihood of drinking [7].

Social service providers in New Zealand have been concerned about the negative impact of early opening hours on persons with alcohol dependence. A later opening hour may further assist those who have made a decision to reduce their alcohol intake and support those in recovery.


In New Zealand, drinkers who purchased alcohol from off-licences after 10pm were found to be twice as likely to be heavy drinkers compared to those who purchased alcohol from an off-licence before 10pm [8].

In New Zealand, approximately 75% of all alcohol is sold from off-licences (43% from bottle stores, 32% from supermarkets) [9]. Restricting off-licence supply of alcohol is therefore very important in terms of alcohol harm reduction.

Click here to go to the Reference list

Placing conditions on liquor licences

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 allows licensing decision makers to place conditions on a liquor licence. Some are compulsory conditions, for example:

  • Stating the days and hours during which alcohol may be sold
  • Stating a place or places on the premises at which drinking water is freely available to customers
  • Single alcohol areas in supermarkets and grocery stores – click here for more information

In addition, licensing decision makers have the discretion to add further conditions (over and above the compulsory conditions) to the licence to minimise alcohol-related harm associated with the individual premises.

Discretionary conditions may include (but are not limited to):

  • Prohibiting the sale of single alcoholic beverages
  • Requiring off-licences to close between 3-4pm (to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising when children leave school)
  • Requiring a one-way door policy after a specified hour (on-licences, club licences, special licences only – e.g. no one can enter the premises after 12am, only those in the establishment can continue purchasing alcohol)
  • Prohibiting the sale of certain types of products
  • Restricting the use of outdoor areas for dining or drinking after a specified hour.

Futher examples of licence conditions can be found here.

Research shows that these types of approaches may be limited in their effectiveness if not accompanied by stronger evidence-based restrictions to the availability of alcohol [10]. Research also shows that discretionary conditions are more effective if they are applied in a consistent manner [10]. 



Prohibiting the sale of single alcoholic serves (also known as single sales) is backed up by strong evidence. Research has shown links between alcohol outlets that sell single alcohol serves to increased alcohol-related violence and crime [11].

When single sales were prohibited, alcohol-related ambulance attendances among 15 to 24 year olds decreased [12].

Single units of alcohol are likely to be favoured by those who are heavy drinkers and also price sensitive; namely adolescents and young adults, and those with an alcohol dependence. Many licensees in New Zealand have already signed an undertaking not to offer for sale any single alcoholic beverages from their premises.

A suitable discretionary condition may therefore be:

“The licensee must not sell single units of mainstream beer, cider or RTDs in less than 445ml packaging. Boutique and handcrafted beer and cider are exempt from this provision.”



One-way door conditions can also be added on a licence and can be included within a Local Alcohol Policy.

The approach works by staggering the time that customers leave licensed premises (thereby decreasing crowds of people exiting licensed premises at the same time) and reduce migration between premises (which Police contend is one of the main issues confronting them late at night). They can also help decrease preloading behaviour. Within New Zealand, ALAC (now part of the Health Promotion Agency) conducted an evaluation of the Christchurch one-way-door intervention in 2008 [9]. The evaluation found that while there was no overall reduction in alcohol-related crime in the inner city, there were reductions in some subsets of crime. It also showed that the one-way door intervention relied on effective working relationships by all parties, including Police and licensees. Additionally, in Dunedin in 2008 approximately 25 inner-city bars took part in a one-way door trial for 3 months, demonstrating a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violence in the central city [13]. One-way door restrictions may be a useful tool to minimise harm. However, on their own and, if inconsistently applied, one-way doors are unlikely to be effective.



Conditions may also be sought to address new and innovative alcohol products being introduced to the retail market. Some of these products (e.g. alcohol sachets, alcoholic ice-blocks) can very dangerous for members of the public to consume. As such, conditions may be placed to restrict their sale.

Click here to go to the Reference list