It is 10 years since the NZ Law Commission reviewed the alcohol laws in New Zealand. The main recommendations of this historic review were dismissed by John Key’s National-led government at the time and then the recommendations from two follow-up reports on marketing and pricing were dismissed by the next John Key-led government.
More recently, Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led government has failed to commit to a recommendation from the Mental Health & Addiction Inquiry to strengthen alcohol regulations.
Over this 10 year period, enormous harm has resulted from the way New Zealanders have been drinking alcohol, estimated to include:
– 8000 premature deaths
– 700,000 physical and sexual assaults
– up to 30,000 children born with alcohol-related brain damage
– social costs over $70 billion.
Alcohol Action NZ is holding a conference in Wellington (Tuesday 13 August) reflecting on the last ten years of advocacy for the adoption of healthier alcohol laws. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who led the 2010 Law Commission’s review will give an opening address to the conference.
“There has been very little change over this past decade apart from a small downward trend in per capita consumption of alcohol probably as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis” said Professor Doug Sellman, a medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action, “although this trend has reversed back upwards over the past two years”.
“The only substantial change in alcohol regulations in this time have been reductions in the legal driving limits to a zero alcohol limit for drivers under the age of 20, and 0.05 for drivers 20 years and older” said Professor Jennie Connor, another medical spokesperson.
“The big ‘winners’ from the continuation of the damaging drinking culture of New Zealand are alcohol businesses” said Dr Geoff Robinson, Chair of Alcohol Action NZ, “many of which are multinational companies”.
In 2012, the government’s response to the Law Commission’s report (the cynically titled Alcohol Reform Bill) was passed as the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, which contained virtually no effective reform. At this time, an Alcohol Action media release included the following comment:
“Meanwhile, history will judge those MPs who wilfully planned and led the wasted opportunity to do something to help the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders being harmed by weak alcohol laws. Their failure is seen in the Bill due to be passed in Parliament today – of particular note: Key, Dunne, Borrows, Joyce, Collins and Power”.
The current government’s focus on well-being must bring them to the realisation that alcohol has devastating effects on New Zealand families and communities, and that we all pay the price.