Underage drinkers still getting booze

More liquor off-licences are caught by police selling alcohol to underage buyers in central Auckland than any other part of the country.

"It's not a good story I have to say," Auckland City Police District Commander Superintendent Mike Clement said.

Police regularly undertake controlled purchase operations where under-18s are sent into stores to try to buy alcohol.

Thirty-eight of 209 stores targeted by Auckland City Police, in the year to August, sold to the underage buyer.

The failure rate for the region is 18 per cent while the rest of the country sits at an average of 8.5 per cent.

September was even more grim with 35 stores checked and 10 fails.

Supermarkets and superettes are regular offenders.

"[They] are selling to minors in significant numbers disproportionately in Auckland in comparison to the rest of the country," Clement said.

He has written to the chief executive of a particular supermarket chain outlining his concerns.

Glen Innes resident and Tamaki Community Patrol member Josephine Bartley isn't shocked by the numbers.

"I know there is an underage drinking problem in the area first-hand," she said.

The high number of alcohol stores in the suburb are part of the problem, she said.

"Off of the top of my head we have eight in a 3km radius," Bartley said.

"The shops are all competing with each other and are going to sell no matter what."

Stricter enforcement and fewer liquor outlets in neighbourhood areas would help the situation, she said.

"There needs to be more support for youth so they don't turn to drinking."

NARGON (the Grocery Retailers' Association) executive officer Trina Snow isn't sure why supermarkets and superettes are faring so badly in the region.

"Some may not understand how serious it is but anyone who is under a major brand should be fine," she said.

Companies put a lot into educating staff on the importance of abiding by liquor licence rules.

Some supermarkets carry out their own stings in-store, Snow said.

"Every now and then you might get a staff member who is being a bit lax."

The fine for selling alcohol to someone who is under the legal purchase age can be up to $10,000 for the manager of an outlet and $2000 for a staff member.

The liquor licence can be suspended for seven days.

Repeat offenders will lose their licence permanently.