Our Drinking Environment

Our drinking landscape - alcohol is over-supplied and advertised heavily

Our drinking landscape has changed considerably over the last 30 years. We have seen dramatic increases in the number of places selling alcohol, the affordability and types of alcoholic products available, and use of innovative marketing strategies to advertise them. 

Today, there are over 11,000 places that sell alcohol:

  • 1641 club licences
  • 6628 on-licences (bars, restaurants, café, etc)
  • 2904 off-licences (9 auctioneer, 942 bottle stores, 92 brewers, 9 caterers, 58 chartered clubs, 41 complementary, 4 conveyances, 16 distillery, 3 function centres, 341 grocery store, 150 hotels, 128 other, 266 mail order, 51 restaurant, 327 supermarket, 233 taverns, 234 wine makers)

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A brief history of the liberalisation of our alcohol laws


Beginning in 1989, new liquor laws increased the availability of alcohol across New Zealand - wine entered our supermarkets in 1989 and beer became available in supermarkets and grocery stores in 1999.

The number of places that sold alcohol more than doubled from to 6,300 in 1990 to 14,200 in 2009. Alcohol was prohibited from being sold in dairies in our new 2012 liquor laws.

Today, around 75% of all alcohol in New Zealand is sold from off-licences: 43% from bottle stores and 32% from supermarkets and grocery stores. Often at very cheap prices.

More liquor outlets are concentrated in low income suburbs than more socio-economically advantaged suburbs.

The increasingly availability of Ready to Drinks (RTDs) has had a huge impact on heavy drinking in New Zealand, particularly among young girls.


Alcohol has become more affordable over time. This is especially so for wine.

In total, New Zealanders spend around $5 billion every year on alcohol.


Until 1980, alcohol advertising on radio and television was regulated by law - only advertising of outlets and services was permitted, but not corporate or brand advertising.

In 1991, alcohol brand advertising was permitted on television after 9.00pm. However, to provide balance against alcohol industry advertising, free broadcasting time was to be allocated to health promotion messages. In 1992, alcohol advertising was permitted under self-regulation by the industry. For more information, click here.

Research in 2004 found that within prime-time television viewing in New Zealand, a scene depicting alcohol occurred every 9 minutes.

In 2009, it was estimated that $200,000 was spent each day advertising alcohol in New Zealand.


In 1999, the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol was reduced from 20 to 18 years.