26 February 2018

New figures show that more alcohol was available for consumption per person in the October-December quarter of 2017 than in any other quarter in the five years since the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act came into effect.

Annual per capita consumption has barely shifted since 2012 says Alcohol Healthwatch Executive Director Dr Nicki Jackson.

“We have witnessed more people drinking hazardously in all age groups from 35 to 74 years, whilst adolescents are making positive changes by reducing their drinking. More than a third of hazardous drinkers are aged 35-54 years. This is the generation that is driving our economy, raising our children, and running our country.

“Evidence strongly suggests that to reverse these drinking trends and set New Zealand on a path where our potential is not hindered by our alcohol use, we need to increase the price of alcohol.”

Dr Jackson said alcohol prices have simply not kept pace with inflation.

“The real price of wine is 30 percent lower today than it was in 1988. This is reflected in supermarket prices where bottles of wine can now be purchased for $5.99.”

February’s UMR polling data commissioned by Alcohol Healthwatch has shown strong public support for raising the price of alcohol. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of people polled supported increasing the price of alcohol to fund mental health and addiction services. Higher levels of support were found among NZ First voters (84 percent), 30-44-year-olds, people of Pacific ethnicity and those with lower incomes.

Dr Jackson believes the opportunity is ripe for leadership to create a healthier, fairer society.

“Raising the excise tax on alcohol is all about fairness; those who drink the most, pay the most. Around 20 percent of New Zealanders do not drink, yet they also pay the considerable cost of alcohol harm in our society.

“We hear urgent calls from our Emergency Department physicians for help with overflowing waiting rooms so by reducing New Zealander’s alcohol consumption we could greatly reduce the burden on our hospital staff.

“Benefits further extend to better mental health, safer roads and communities, and more productive workplaces and economy.”


Contact: Dr. Nicki Jackson, Executive Director Alcohol Healthwatch   ph. (09) 520 7035, mobile 021 187 9749

To print this media release click here

Supplementary information for media release 

UMR Omnibus Survey 5th – 15th February 2018

“Do you strongly support, somewhat support, neither support nor oppose, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose that: Government should increase the price of alcohol, as long as the extra money is used for mental health and addiction services?”

Party support

Strongly support + Somewhat support






NZ First








Alcohol available for consumption
  • In 2017, 476 million litres of alcoholic drinks were available for domestic consumption [1], up 0.5% from 2016 (474 million litres) [2].
  • According to latest figures from Statistics New Zealand [1],
    • The volume of spirits (including spirit-based drinks) available rose by almost 4 million litres (by 5.4%), from to 72.6 million litres to 76.5 million litres.
    • The volume of high-strength beer (above 5% alcohol content) available rose by 34% compared to 2016 and the availability of 4.35-5% beer rose by 14%. Consumption of mainstream beer (2.5% to 4.35%) continues to decline.
  • 8.8 million litres of pure alcohol were available per person 15 years and above [1]. This represents a 0.9% decrease from 2016.
  • In the last quarter of 2017 (Oct, Nov and Dec), 151.5 million litres of alcoholic drinks were available for consumption [1]. 
How many extra hazardous drinkers aged 35-54 were there in 2015/16 compared to 2011/12 (New Zealand Health Survey)[3]?

Age group

2011/12 % (N) [D]

2015/16 % (N) [D]

Difference N (%)


16.0% (97000) [606250]

22.3% (130000) [582959]

33000 (6.3%)


11.7% (73000) [623931]

18.5% (117000) [632432]

44000 (6.8%)

Combined 35-54

13.8% (170000)[1230181]

20.3% (247000)[1215391]

77000 (6.5%)

Total (15+)

14.9% (521000)[3496644]

19.3% (720000)[3730570]

199000 (4.4%)

Estimated numbers are rounded to the nearest 1000 people, denominator extrapolated from numerator and percentage.

Alcohol Tax in NZ


Retail Price

Excise tax

Excise % price

#standard drink

Price per standard drink


DB Export Gold


(15-pack, 4%)





Lion Red


(15-pack, 4%)








(6-pack, 330ml, 7%)





Vodka cruiser


(12-pack, 250ml, 7%)





Spirits & Wine

Smirnoff Red


(1L, 37.5%)





Brancott Estate


(750ml, 13.5%)





Villa Maria


(750mL, 12.5%)





Cost of alcohol to the society
  • In 2016, alcohol contributed $980 million of government revenue in the form of excise tax [4]. This compares to $1,710 million from tobacco excise taxes. Like smoking, it is important to note that this revenue does not match the excessive cost of alcohol harm in our society.
  • Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost New Zealand society $5 billion each year (expressed in 2008 currency)[5]. This includes costs to individuals such as car insurance, lost wages and medical treatments, as well as cost to the government such as healthcare costs, road crashes, police and justice [5].
  • In comparison to alcohol, the social cost of other drug-related harms and intervention is estimated to be at $1.6 billion (expressed in 2008 currency)[5]  and $1.8 billion in 2014/15 [6].
Benefits to raising the excise tax on alcohol
  • A 50% increase in excise tax on alcohol beverages will result in modest increases in the retail prices of alcohol. The following shows the extra excise tax that would be applied to different products:
    • $1.25 (750ml wine)
    • $5.01 (3L cask wine)
    • $3.31 (15-pack 330ml, 4% beer)
    • $11.32 (1L spirits).
  • There is a wide body of international evidence consistently showing an inverse relationship between alcohol excise tax and price and consumption of alcohol. That is, when the price of alcohol goes up by 10%, overall consumption reduces by 3% to 10% [7].
  • There is also strong consistent evidence to suggest that alcohol excise taxes and price interventions reduce subsequent alcohol-related harm. Systematic reviews have shown increases in alcohol prices reduce alcohol-related disease and injury outcomes, alcohol-impaired driving, motor vehicle crashes, motor vehicle injuries, death from cirrhosis, alcohol dependence, sexually transmitted infections, suicide, violence (including rape, robbery, and violence towards children [7,8,9].
  • The Ministry of Justice estimated that raising the excise tax by 82% is expected to result in savings to New Zealand society of $339 million in the first year and $2,452 million over a ten-year period [10].

[1] Statistics New Zealand. Alcohol Available for Consumption: Year ended December 2017. 2018. Retrieved from  https://www.stats.govt.nz/information-releases/alcohol-available-for-consumption-year-ended-december-2017  [Accessed 26 February 2018].

[2] Statistics New Zealand. Alcohol Available for Consumption: Year ended December 2016. 2017. Retrieved from http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/industry_sectors/alcohol_and_tobacco_availability/Alcohol-available-for-consumption_HOTPYeDec16.aspx [Accessed 27 June 2017].

[4] The New Zealand Treasury. Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the year ended 30 June 2016. Wellington: The New Zealand Treasury; 2016. Retrieved from http://www.treasury.govt.nz/government/financialstatements/yearend/jun16 [Accessed 5 July 2017].

[5] Slack A, Nana G, Webster M, et al. Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use. BERL Economics 2009:40.

[6] New Zealand Drug Foundation. Drug Use in New Zealand. Policy and Advocacy. Retrieved from: https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/policy-and-advocacy/drugs-in-nz/ [Accessed 5 July 2017].

[7] Elder RW, Lawrence B, Ferguson A, Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Chattopadhyay SK, et al. (2010). The effectiveness of tax policy interventions for reducing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 38:217-29 

[8] Sornpaisarn, B., Shield, K. D., Österberg, E., Rehm, J. (editors). (2017). Resource tool on alcohol taxation and pricing policies. Thailand: World Health Organization. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/255795/1/9789241512701-eng.pdf 

[9] Wagenaar AC, Salois MJ, Komro KA (2009b), Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on drinking: a meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies. Addiction. 104:179-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02438.x.

[10] White J, Lynn R, Ong SW, Whittington P, Condon C, Joy S. The Effectiveness of Alcohol Pricing Policies; Ministry of Justice. 2014. Retrieved from https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/effectiveness-of-alcohol-pricing-policies.pdf [Accessed 21 August 2017].