Greens oppose extended hours for bars during Rugby World Cup 2019

The Greens have opposed a law allowing venues to stay open longer during this year's Rugby World Cup, saying it links alcoholism to sport. 

Co-leader Marama Davidson described the legislation - which passed on Wednesday - as an "incredible gift to the alcohol industry" and said it would encourage New Zealand's drinking culture. 

"How much longer are we going to continue to tag the sporting culture of our country - which I am incredibly proud of and have a strong affinity to, through myself and my family and my community - to drinking?"

Davidson said the Greens were "very proud" to be opposed, because the legislation would uphold a culture that "continues to allow drinking as part of the ordinary, normal way that we do sports in this country". 

Cabinet approved changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act on Monday that would allow bars and clubs to apply to stay open longer than usual because of the time difference between New Zealand and Japan. 

The Bill mirrors changes made to the law as a result of the Rugby World Cup in 2015 which also allowed venues to open and screen games played outside of normal trading hours, when the tournament was held in the UK. 

The Bill was spearheaded by ACT leader David Seymour who described the legislation's cross-party support - except for the Greens - as a "wonderful achievement for our Parliament and is politics at its best". 

"It's a wonderful thing that this Parliament has been able to put aside its usual differences to work together to allow sensible and sane laws so that people can do something very innocuous."

ACT leader David Seymour spearheaded the Bill extending opening hours for bars during the Rugby World Cup.
ACT leader David Seymour spearheaded the Bill extending opening hours for bars during the Rugby World Cup. Photo credit: Getty

Looking back on 2015, he added: "There were those who said New Zealanders can't handle it... and yet what happened, nothing brings New Zealanders together better than sport... there was no trouble."

Green MP Jan Logie suggested there were more important matters for Parliament to attend to than "ensuring that people following our national game are able to have a drink". 

"To me, that is absolutely linking alcohol and our national game in a way that sends a message that I and the Green Party do not believe is constructive, when we have a culture of massive harm resulting from the misuse of alcohol."

She said the legislation sends a message "that rugby and drinking are inextricably linked... that is the subtext of this legislation". 

National MP Gerry Brownlee hit back at the Greens, labelling Logie's speech "very sad" and "distressing". 

"That was so distressing that the Green Party can stand up and say that this Bill is about linking drinking to rugby - it is not. It is about making sure that the widest number of New Zealanders who enjoy sport can have a look at it."

Green MP Jan Logie is opposed to the law change.
Green MP Jan Logie is opposed to the law change. Photo credit: Green Party

He said the Greens wouldn't have a problem with the legislation if it involved people having a "couple of puffs on the old wacky backy, and rather than looking at the screen, just imagine what's going on". 

Seymour said the Greens were implying that anyone wanting to go to a place that sells alcohol is "somehow bad and has a problem". 

"I would have thought that they would be encouraging people who are able to go to a social place and actually enjoy alcohol responsibly."

Justice Minister Andrew Little thanked Seymour last week for drafting the Bill. 

He said some clubs had been facing difficulty persuading their district licensing committees to grant a special licence to extend their hours for the events. 

"It makes sense for Parliament to allow clubs to meet a community desire."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Bill needed to be enacted by September 10 because licensees will need to give at least seven days' notice to their council and police if they are going to extend their trading hours.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be the ninth, and is to be held in Japan from September 20 to November 2.