21 Jul 2014

NZ First to hit drinking, drugs culture

8:29 am on 21 July 2014

New Zealand First will introduce tougher penalties to curb the country's binge-drinking and drug culture if it is part of the next Government, leader Winston Peters says.

Winston Peters.

Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The party would make it an offence to be drunk or seriously drug affected in a public place, or while trespassing on private property, Mr Peters said. The penalties would act as a deterrent.

"It'll save money because when you know you can't behave that way, then the level of requirement to stop that sort of anti-social behaviour, and the damage, will be a reduced cost against society."

The party is polling just under the threshold to get back into Parliament, on 4.3 percent in the latest poll. In 2011, it received just under 7 percent of the vote and eight MPs.

But deputy leader Tracey Martin said it did not put too much value on the polls.

"An insider of the National Party told us that they had us at 8-10 percent, and that was around about six weeks ago," she said.

"I believe we're higher than that, and I believe we'll walk back in with 14-16 MPs."

New Zealand First was in better shape now than it was at the same time in 2011, Ms Martin said.

Mr Peters said it was pledging commonsense policies for September's election, including removing GST from food.

Other countries found a way to remove consumption taxes from basic food items, and New Zealand could do the same, he said.

The party had priced the policy at $3 billion, which it would pay for by targetting unpaid taxes worth $7 billion.

Mr Peters told Morning Report the policy excluded processed foods but included essential items, which families needed but which many found unaffordable.

"It'll be bread, it'll be milk, it'll be meat. It'll be the fundamentals that families need to get by with.

"That's what it's based on. It has numerous international precedents."

Current food prices were resulting in endemic poverty for many families, Mr Peters said.