Proposed law change making booze available all year sparks binge drinking concerns

Kiwis could be able to grab a pint 365 days a year, including religious holidays, if a proposed change to our alcohol laws passes - but health experts fear what it could mean for our binge drinking culture.

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty is pushing to change the law allowing licensed bars and restaurants that are already open to sell booze without a meal on Anzac Day morning and religious holidays, Easter and Christmas. 

"I'm not aware of the Christian teaching that says that thou shall not drink on Good Friday or Easter Sunday," McAnulty says. "I went to mass on Easter Sunday and if I wanted to have a pint with my family afterwards, I should be able to."

It's no secret Kiwis enjoy a tipple - often a tipple too much. But the people Newshub spoke to were mixed on whether the law change is a good idea. 

"Yeah absolutely, I think it would be great," one man said. 

Another said alcohol availability should be up to the consumer. 

But a woman told Newshub "you need at least one day of the year where you don't sell alcohol". 

Hallertau Brewbar is one of many keen to see the law changed. 

"The ability to operate normally on those busy days would really make a big difference to our bottom line," says Stephen Plowman, who runs the Auckland bar and restaurant. 

"They're quite annoying to be honest. They're hard to manage and they cost money and they don't seem to be really relevant anymore." 

Usually, Member's Bills like McAnulty's are hard to progress - pulled at random from an old DEKA biscuit tin in Parliament. 

But a parliamentary change ushered through last year means it's not just a lottery anymore. If 61 MPs - not including ministers - support the Bill, it gets a shot at becoming law.

"We shouldn't be restricting access to alcohol based on a religious holiday," says McAnulty. "It should be on the basis of health."

But alcohol health researchers Newshub has spoken to say health is precisely why this Bill shouldn't proceed, and that it encourages binge drinking in a nation that already has a drinking problem.

The Bill would be a conscience vote, meaning each MP voting according to their conscience.

MPs Newshub spoke to had varying views. 

"I spend a bit of time reflecting on my personal opinion on it before casting a vote," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"It's a matter we normally deal with as a conscience issue so that's where I'll leave it," said National leader Judith Collins. "We don't actually drink much at home, unless we've got people over."

"My conscience on these issues has generally been quite conservative," said Labour's Nanaia Mahuta.

"I'm a churchgoer but that being said, I've voted for rationalisation on this issue in the past," said National MP Simon Bridges. 

"I'll certainly be supporting it at first reading at least," said Labour's Chris Hipkins. 

"I'm pretty conservative on these sorts of things," said National MP Todd Muller. 

The Bill doesn't touch Easter trading laws which dictate which businesses can open and when. But it could be a test about public appetite for broader change.