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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 12:00 GMT
Dry Christmas looms for NZ drinkers
Off-license fridge full of cans of lager
Refilling an empty fridge could prove tricky
New Zealanders hoping for a drink this Christmas and New Year may have to break the law after the government brought in prohibition by mistake.

Parliament has rushed through a controversial law aimed at preventing drunken disorder on the streets over the festive season.


It will be practically impossible to purchase alcohol without breaking this law

Nick Smith, MP
The bill was supposed to ban people from consuming or carrying alcohol in designated areas or face a $206 (NZ $500) fine.

But a mistake in the wording means the ban could cover any public area in the country.

"An alcohol ban that was introduced for a few discreet places now covers every park, every beach, every road and footpath," said opposition National Party MP Nick Smith.

"It will be practically impossible to purchase alcohol without breaking this law."

'Christmas present'

Green MP Sue Bradford criticised the speed at which the bill was put through, saying it was "an affront to parliamentary process and an abuse of democracy".

Pint of beer
Pubs can still serve pints of beer
The bill was put forward by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters - also the MP for Tauranga where thousands of drinkers caused mayhem last New Year.

Mr Peters said it was his party's "Christmas present to the people of New Zealand who believe in law and order and civilised behaviour on our streets and in our public places."

But as drinkers became aware of the full extent of the new law, the government has been trying to reassure the public it would not clamp down too hard.

"The police are not going to use this power to confiscate any alcohol from anybody in any public place," Michael Cullen, the government's Leader in the House told Radio New Zealand.

"They are far too busy with other things to go around wasting their time everyone has got a six-pack of beer."

At least one drinker is going to get a shock over Christmas though. Instead of uncorking a $62 (NZ $150) vintage Hawke's Bay red, the drinker will find a bottle of coloured water, the New Zealand Herald reported on Thursday.

The mistake happened last week when winery staff in the town of Hastings accidentally sold a display bottle labelled Gimblett Road 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot.

The winery is trying to track down the customer and replace the bottle.

See also:

26 Jul 01 | UK
Island of liberal drinking
02 May 01 | UK Politics
End near for 'antiquated' pub laws
21 Jul 98 | UK
Open all hours
25 Aug 99 | UK
Appeal to reform drink laws
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