A Sober Mission
By Andrew Frame

Tom’s last column touched a chord I have been mulling over recently. It was especially highlighted with changes to next year’s Mission Concert that could raise some interesting results. Hawke’s Bay is synonymous with wine, the region’s marketers will tell you … so much so they even monikered us ‘Wine Country’.

When so much of the region’s income is based around alcohol, doesn’t it pay to take a more proactive and forthright approach to the problems it produces? How many other regions can lay claim to a bus driver being imprisoned for being drunk in charge of his passenger-laden bus?

One of the most hypocritical aspects of the recent alcohol law reviews was that, while teenagers are the media and politicians’ traditional target for bad, drunken behaviour, they make up only 10% of the nation’s alcohol-related crime and incidents. Despite what one of the Mission Concert managers said in the Napier Mail this week about their target ‘Baby-boomer’ market being ‘usually’ well-behaved at the event, statistically your average Mission Concert goer’s demographic is far more likely to get into alcohol-related trouble at some stage than their offspring.

Next year’s Mission Concert will be an interesting study with the BYO booze ban in place. Thousands of punters usually toting chillybins full of liquor waiting to get in, will become thousands of punters cued up within the venue waiting to get their allotment of privately provided plonk. This is not a surprising move. The police have been trying to get the practice changed for a number of years.

Those who don’t wish to pay ‘house’ drink prices may wish to “pre-load” before the concert – an activity more common amongst their children and grandchildren. The aim of it is to get a head start on other party-goers by consuming a greater, cheaper alcohol volume at home before moving off to the night’s activities. This is bound to result in a number of people being turned away at the gate and elaborate debates as to the state of people’s sobriety versus how important they claim to be. I would not want to be one of the gatekeepers.

The major point of banning BYO booze is, of course, trying to stamp out the numerous cases of drunkenness that have lessened the tone and ruined the event for some in the audience during the Mission Concert’s recent history, where the focus in too many cases has been more on the party than the act. While many have had no trouble with their fellow audience members over the years, it can take only one over-imbiber to paint a bad picture of the concert, the audience and the region.

So when February rolls around, crowds descend on a Taradale vineyard, and the hills come alive with the sound of Sting, will there be drinking games based on how many times the word “Roxanne” is sung (answer: lots)? Or will it be a largely sober, family-friendly event? Will more of Hawke’s Bay’s big events become alcohol free?

And rather than just promoting it and ignoring its effects, or trying to misdirect the blame, will we learn to be proactive and resourceful about the place alcohol holds in our region, our way of life and our communities … making us safer, healthier and wiser?

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