Alcohol and young people (under 18s) | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Alcohol and young people (under 18s)

For young people under 18, it is best NOT to supply alcohol to them for as long as possible. Young people are often pressured to start drinking but the earlier they start, the greater the chance of them developing problems later. From around puberty through to their mid-20‘s, teenagers’ brains undergo a BIG redevelopment. This means their brains are more sensitive to alcohol and other drug use. Excessive alcohol can cause actual physical damage to their brain. Alcohol also interferes with their learning, causing both short- and long-term memory problems and can also lead to higher stress levels and risk of depression and suicide.

The minimum legal age for purchasing alcohol in New Zealand is 18 years, but there is no legal drinking age in this country. However, the law says you cannot supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years unless:

  • the person supplying the alcohol is the parent or legal guardian and the alcohol is  supplied in a responsible manner,  or
  • the person supplying alcohol has the express consent of the young person’s parent or legal guardian and the alcohol is supplied in a responsible manner.

You could be fined up to $2,000 if you don't follow the law.

What does 'responsible' supply mean?

To supply alcohol to under-18s responsibly you should:

  • supervise the consumption of alcohol
  • provide food
  • provide a choice of low alcohol and/or non-alcoholic drinks
  • ensure safe transport options are in place.

When deciding if alcohol is supplied responsibly you are required to consider:

  • the nature of the occasion
  • the time period over when the alcohol is supplied
  • the strength and amount of alcohol supplied
  • the age of the minor.
What does 'express consent' mean?

If you're supplying alcohol to an under 18 year old who is not your child, you'll need to ensure you have express consent from their parent or legal guardian before giving them alcohol.

Express consent may include a personal conversation, an email or a text message that you have good reason to believe is genuine.

Who is a guardian?

A person is only considered a minor's guardian if he or she is recognised as a guardian under the Care of Children Act 2004.

Frequently asked questions for parents

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