The New Zealand Law Commission has issued a report called “Alcohol in Our Lives” (available here) and is seeking public comment on it, including views on possible law changes.
The Hastings and Napier Councils are awaiting the outcome of this consultation, and expected Parliamentary legislation, after which they will jointly re-write our local liquor by-laws.
Napier Councillor Maxine Boag offered these views on the subject in a recent commentary for Newstalk ZB:
“Our drinking laws and practices have come a long way from the old six o’clock swill, or even the ten o’clock closing. The liberalization of our liquor laws 20 years ago was done to promote a safe, mature European-type drinking culture. We lowered the drinking age to 18, allowed the sale of beer and wine in supermarkets, permitted Sunday trading, and allowed licensed premises to stay open all hours.
But have these changes promoted a healthy, safe drinking environment for ourselves and our children?
According to the NZ Law Commission, in their recent paper called “Alcohol in our lives”, liquor is today a serious source of social problems in New Zealand, with a huge cost to the public.
According to police, a huge proportion of their resources are being used to clean up scenes of disorder, offending, and saving intoxicated people from themselves. 31 per cent of all reported crime is committed by people who have drunk alcohol. 30 per cent of the total road toll and 30 percent of fatal crashes are alcohol related. ACC claims in which alcohol was a contributing factor cost $650 million a year.
Doctors and nurses who staff our emergency facilities see first hand the damage that is done. Figures from our own HB hospital last year say that 25 per cent of emergency admissions are alcohol related. The figure goes up to 67 per cent between midnight and 6 a.m.
The report says that alcohol is no ordinary commodity: it is a drug which, if it were to be considered for classification today, would be a Class B drug, alongside ecstasy and opium. According to the WHO, alcohol is a carcinogen, in the same hazard category as asbestos and tobacco. One thousand New Zealanders die every year from alcohol-related causes – half of them accidents and half cancers.
The damage that binge drinking is doing to our young people in particular is well-documented. Medical sources suggest that no one under the age of 15 should drink at all.
The NZ Law Commission’s report is available on their website and is very readable. They are asking for us to make submissions on any suggested law changes that we believe would improve our nation’s appalling drinking statistics.”