Home > Social Issues > Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse.

Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse.

It has been said that, when it comes to alcohol, New Zealand is the ‘Russia’ of the South Pacific. Like Russia, since our economy was de-regulated by a neo-liberal controlled Labour Government in the late 1980s, our problem with alcohol abuse has gone from bad to worse.

Alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4.4 billion dollars, with another $661 million in drug/alcohol abuse (BERL figures). Nearly five billion dollars spent on hospital care; ACC payouts; injuries; deaths; lost productivity; welfare; and other related costs.

And that was six years ago.

Since then, this problem has become worse, with neither Labour nor National seemingly having the courage to address this crisis. In the meantime, local communities are being harmed by easy availability of cheap booze. (If you think I’m exaggerating, check out any episode of “Police Ten-7“, on TVNZ.) Even when communities attempt to fight back, their efforts are undermined and ignored by the judicial system and those elected to serve.

Case in point:

No more bottle stores say Porirua marchers

9 December 2008.  Protesters marched to Porirua District Court to oppose a bottle store opening opposite Cannons Creek School.

More than 100 people gathered at Porirua’s Cobham Court yesterday afternoon, chanting “no more bottle stores”, before a Liquor Licensing Authority hearing.

Porirua Alcohol and Drug Cluster spokeswoman and city councillor Taima Fagaloa spoke outside court of the saturation of liquor stores in Porirua East and the $2.5 billion cost of alcohol-related harm a year.

“We don’t oppose economic development. But we don’t support local economies [businesses] that are going to have negative social impacts on the community.”Inside court, youth leader Fofo Molia said it was already too easy for Porirua East youth to access alcohol, without the new store in Warspite Ave. “The cost of having a liquor outlet is huge and the price we are not willing to pay.”

She said a drunk 11-year-old who had smashed windows at Cannons Creek shopping mall was dropped off at her house by the police last month.Youth worker Fa’amatuainu Wayne Poutoa said alcohol was a “tool of engagement” into crime and violence for the city’s youth. “I am here because this has serious consequences for our young people.

“If you place a liquor store in Cannons Creek, then you might as well place a bigger police station there as well.”The applicant, Bhaveeni Dahya, did not attend the hearing and was represented by a liquor law specialist, who said said the number of outlets in an area was not grounds for rejecting an application. The authority could only turn it down if his client was not a fit or proper person.

Judge E W Unwin said: “My immediate reaction is to suggest it’s up to your client to prove his or her suitability . . .”That’s not going to be easy in the absence of your client.”

Medical Officer of Health Stephen Palmer, of Regional Public Health, told the court that Porirua East experienced “some of the poorest health outcomes” in the country and alcohol was a “key contributor”.Senior Sergeant Steve Sargent told the judge that the applicant’s father has been in trouble with the LLA and may become involved with the store, which could give police grounds to later challenge the licence.

Ms Dahya’s father, Billy Dahya, who owns a bottle store in Waitangirua, was handed a two-day suspension of his liquor licence yesterday, for selling alcohol to an underage girl twice. The store’s manager, Limoni Atatangi, was suspended for six weeks for the breaches.

A decision on Ms Dahya’s application is expected within six weeks.

Fast Forward to July 2011:

School wants bottle store closed

19 July 2011.   A primary school wants to force the closure of a neighbouring bottle store to make the streets around it safer. 

A community meeting, spearheaded by Russell School in Cannons Creek, Porirua, was held last week on the relicensing of the Fantame Liquor Store, which is about 50 metres from the school gates and is open from 9am to midnight seven days a week. It is the only off-licence open in Porirua after 10pm. 

Principal Sose Annandale said the community was fed up with broken glass, graffiti and drunks walking through the school. 

“This neighbourhood, this community, really doesn’t deserve that. They’re telling me stories about the swearing, the fighting the damage to their own property. They’re all sick of it, they’re all tired of it.”

Ideally, she wants the liquor store closed or, at the very least, its hours reduced to limit the impact on children walking to and from school. The school, with 142 pupils, also has a kohanga reo and a Tokelauan preschool on site. 

Fantame owner Chiman Patel said he would fight to keep his licence and the same opening hours.

“I think it’s nothing to do with them. There’s always some people that complain about something. We haven’t done anything wrong.” 

The closing time was extended from 9pm to midnight five years ago at the request of customers, he said.

Fantame was caught in a police sting two weeks ago when it sold alcohol to a minor. Mr Patel said his son sold liquor to a “tall boy” who turned out to be part of a controlled purchasing operation.

School board of trustees chairman Matt Crawshaw, who has two daughters at the school, said the focus was on reducing opening hours and the removal of advertising. 

Some of the pupils’ bedrooms were across the road from the store, which was “lit up like Las Vegas”, he said. 

“I sat here the other night at 11.55pm watching car after car after car parking up and picking up their boxes. What happens is that we experience the aftermath of that.”

Submissions on the liquor licence renewal close on Friday. Porirua City Council will decide whether to renew the licence for a further three years or pass the matter on to the Liquor Licensing Authority.

 

The Maori Party was moved enough to put this statement on their website;

 

 

It is abundantly clear that those living in communities badly affected by easy, cheap booze, have a huge fight on their hands. And judging by the plethora of new bottle stores opening thoughout our town and cities, they are not winning that fight.

Our elected leaders – especially those well-paid members of Parliament whom we elect every three years – seem unable and unwilling to address this problem.

More specifically, I charge National (and it’s predecessor) with gross irresponsibility. They have done nothing of any meaningful consequence to control the spread of liquor outlets; control the availability of cheap booze;  control opening hours of bars and off-licences; control advertising – basically, they have done  nothing of any material benefit to the community.

National, in particular seems powerless to act. Not just because liquor companies are powerful lobby groups – but because National has become trapped by the very “Nanny State” creature it helped create in 2008, with which to tar-and-feather Labour.

National now finds itself in the awkward position of being unable to reign in the alcohol industry without incurring the label of “Nanny State” against itself.

In the meantime, alcohol abuse in this country becomes worse with each passing day, week, month, year. (For which we are paying with our taxes.)

It’s election time this coming November. So why not do yourself and your community a favour – demand from your candidates a statement as to what practical steps they will do to control liquor availability in this country.

Don’t accept bullshit from National and Labour candidates. They will both speak eloquently as to how their respective governments did this, or that, or this during their terms in office. (Yet, very little actually has been achieved.)

Instead, ask them what they will do and how they will achieve it in the next three years.

If you can’t motivate the buggers during election time – then we’ll never be able to persuade them any other time.

John Key will be attending a public meeting in Upper Hutt on 2 August. I think I might ask him a question or three on this problem.

_______________________________________________________________

Public Meeting

John Key

“Expressions” Art Gallery

836 Ferguson Dr, Upper Hutt (between Upper Hutt Library & H20 Pools)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011, @ 7.30pm

_______________________________________________________________

 

– Saturday, 23 July 2011

 

 

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Categories: Social Issues

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