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Booze – it’s time for some common sense

12 December 2011 3 comments

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I sympathise with Newtown residents. This country has a glut of alcohol outlets, and most folk have had a gutsful.

The ready availability of cheap booze satisfies heavy drinkers; liquor companies; and naive libertarians, none of whom care greatly about communities – but I think it’s time that NZ called “time” on our growing liquor problems.

Enough is enough.

The “liberal pendulum” has swung too far to the “rights” of drunkeness and crime, and we need to get back to the simple notion of community responsibility.

No one is suggesting prohibition or returning to 6PM closing, but as a society it’s time we returned to moderation, balance, and a sense obligation to create safer communities.

It’s time that communities were allowed to regain control of their own neighbourhoods.

And it seems that many communities are doing precisely that,

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When 88 submissions were lodged, opposing the relicensing of Fantame Liquor Store, and people are sufficiently angry and galvanised  to take to the streets in protest – then that should be a clear indication that the community has had enough.

The growing community resistance to liquor outlets is cropping up throughout the country, and sometimes all it takes is for one courageous individual to take a stand and show leadership,

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Good on you, Mr Hawker. If New Zealand had more gutsy people like you, politicians would have to take heed of communities crying out for common sense decision-making  that make safer neighbourhoods – not create a preponderance of liquor outlets, selling cheap booze to hard-core drinkers at all hours of the day and night.

Jim Anderton, MP for Wigram (ret.), made an impassioned speech on this issue. I think he summed matters up quite nicely,

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Enough is enough – liquor outlet community protest

– Jim Anderton’s speech at liquor outlet community protest

20/08/11



Another liquor store is the last thing we need. Public drinking is a serious problem for this area. It’s got worse since the earthquakes closed the inner city. Just two weeks ago, four students were arrested, cars were vandalised and police were pelted with bottles in Riccarton.

How much of this behaviour do we have to take before we say it’s too much? It’s too hard for communities to oppose liquor outlets when we feel there are already too many in our neighbourhoods.

More places selling alcohol, a lower drinking age, and longer opening hours – it all adds up. It adds up to more alcohol abuse. It adds up to more harm to communities.

Communities are in a good position to judge for themselves whether there are too many places in an area to buy liquor.

Residents are good at gauging for themselves whether there are enough places.

But the law doesn’t give local communities enough say. The result is that it is too hard for a community to respond to increasing alcohol abuse.

You don’t have to be a wowser to say the rules are too heavily weighted in favour of alcohol. But ‘wowser’ and ‘zealot’ and the labels that the alcohol industry puts on anyone who expresses concern about the harm caused by alcohol – Sensible people like Doug Selman, from the National Addiction Centre at the University of Otago, and Ross Bell, from the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

Liquor lobbyists like the Hospitality Association say drinkers should take personal responsibility for their own actions. That sounds reasonable. But it is the opposite, and it’s just as cynical as the arguments the tobacco industry used to use.

Those who are addicted to alcohol or affected by it are generally the least well equipped to deal with it responsibly. The hospitality industry knows this only too well.

I often ask myself what some of those same people would say if their own children or family members became addicted to an illegal drug such as methamphetamine.

Would they blame the children alone, or would they put some responsibility on the dealers.

The same goes for the alcohol industry.

We have a serious alcohol problem in New Zealand.

Sixty per cent of criminal offences are committed when the offender is under the influence of alcohol. There are 1350 violent physical assaults which take place in New Zealand homes each week fuelled by alcohol abuse.

If we want less crime and safer streets, we need to make alcohol less available.

This community is taking action. Everyone here today is taking personal responsible for making this community safer. We deserve to be listened to. We are entitled to say enough is enough.

We don’t need more drinking nor more places to drink.

What we need are safer streets and more respect for the wishes of this community to control the number of liquor outlets in our neighbourhood. Source

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And just to put this issue into monetary terms (for those who give no credence to concepts of community), a BERL report on alcohol abuse revealed the following costs to tax-payers,

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Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use

– Adrian Slack

Client: The Ministry of Health and ACC

Authors: Adrian Slack, Dr Ganesh Nana, Michael Webster, Fiona Stokes and Jiani Wu

Date: July 2009

This research estimates the social costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use, excluding tobacco, in New Zealand.  Harms related to drug use include a wide range of crime, lost output, health service use and other diverted resources.  Harmful use has both opportunity costs, which divert resources from alternative beneficial uses, and psychological or intangible costs, such as reduced quality or length of life.

The report provides four broad answers.  It estimates the:

  • total social costs from harmful drug use in 2005/06.

  • potential level of social costs that are avoidable.

  • cost to society stemming from alcohol and other drug-related injuries

  • social costs from harmful drug use borne by the government

The study shows that harmful drug use imposed a substantial cost on New Zealand in 2005/06.

  • Overall, harmful drug use in 2005/06 caused an estimated $6,525 million of social costs.

  • Harmful alcohol use in 2005/06 cost New Zealand an estimated $4,437 million of diverted resources and lost welfare.

  • Harmful other drug use was estimated to cost $1,427 million, of which $1,034 million were tangible costs.

  • Joint alcohol and other drug use that could not be separately allocated to one drug category cost a further $661 million. If the joint costs are split proportionately, total alcohol and total other drug costs equate to $4,939 million (over three quarters) and $1,585 million (just under one quarter).

  • Using estimates from international research, this study suggests that up to 50 percent ($3,260 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use may be avoidable.

  • The research indicated that 29.9 percent (or $1,951 million) of the social costs of harmful drug use result from injury.

  • The costs of harmful drug use from a government perspective amount to an estimated $1,602 million, or just over one third (35.1 percent) of the total tangible costs to society.  Source

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At least $4.4 billion lost in harmful  alcohol-related incidents. That’s $4.4 billion in tax-payers money. The cost by now is probably much higher.

Meanwhile, liquor companies continue to make huge profits selling their products.

Let’s be  honest; this country has a serious problem with alcohol abuse. The ready availability of cheap booze; late opening hours of bars; heavy advertising to promote a drinking culture – all contribute to problems of violence, property damage, lost productivity, added stresses on families; and preventable injuries and deaths.

This is not about peoples’ freedom to drink. This is about returning power to ordinary citizens and communities to say “enough is enough”; we don’t want our streets unsafe because of drunken idiots; our hospital A&E Wards filled with people who are half-dead with alcohol poisoning, or injured in fights; police resources stretched to the max dealing with drunkeness and alcohol-fueled crimes; and billions wasted on this problem.

We can curtail alcohol abuse in this country and still buy a bottle of wine to drink with our meals. Or go out on a Friday night for a quiet druink at our local. In fact, it may even be a safer, nicer experience.

But not if we’re going to continue down our current road of excess.

Meanwhile, Peter Dunne has been a ‘busy’ lad, suppressing surveys with damning data,

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Peter Dunne – the same minister who passed an amendment to legislation to make “kronic” illegal within a matter of weeks.

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I guess we know where his priorities lie, eh? (Clue: not with alcohol abuse.)

Peter Dunne, and others like him in this National Government are irrelevant.

It’s up to communities to reassert their values and protect their neighbourhoods.

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Additional

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Perhaps this should be a case of Three Strikes – Permanent Loss of Licence?

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Source

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Additional

Dunne accused of keeping alcohol survey quiet

Stay away from our city, Croatian tells Kiwi drunks

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Our ‘inalienable right’ to destroy communities through alcohol abuse

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