Booze barons calling the shots | The Jackal

9 Apr 2012

Booze barons calling the shots

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'd realise that New Zealand has a destructive heavy drinking culture that pervades all sectors of society.

With an estimated 70% of all Police incidents involving alcohol and young people between the ages of 17 and 19 making up the highest proportion of inebriated offenders, there is no doubt that over consumption of alcohol is costing society dearly.

Just how costly you might ask... In 2005/06 it was estimated by Berl Economics (PDF) that the cost of harmful alcohol use was $4.4 billion in diverted resources and lost welfare, which is over four times the amount of tax revenue gained. However taking into account the full social and economic impact from alcohol abuse increases the costs dramatically.

Last year, the Law Commission made a number of recommendations to try and curb the harm caused including a split drinking age of 18 for bars and 20 for off-licence purchases to 20, implementing alcohol limits for ready-to-drink beverages, reduced opening hours and increasing the excise duty on alcohol by up to 50%.

However the National government hasn't taken much heed of the evidence based advice. Instead they have delayed their own already watered down Alcohol Reform Bill from reaching its third reading, obviously because of strong lobbying by the alcohol industry against the Law Commissions recommendations. These lobbyists want the government to put profits before factually based evidence and ignore the huge cost to communities from alcohol abuse.

Research conducted in 2009 by the Population Studies Centre at Waikato University showed that every extra off-licence venue increased police events or incidents by 60 to 65 per year, findings that have been backed up by recent research undertaken by the University of Canterbury's GeoHealth laboratory.

Yesterday, the Dominion Post reported:

Rates of serious violent crime double within 900m of a liquor outlet, a new study has found.

And the nationwide study has confirmed that the more liquor stores an area has, the more likely it is to have a higher rate of serious violent crime, regardless of poverty and other factors.


Using mapping software researchers were able to work out the median travel distance to a liquor outlet. Areas with the lowest rates of serious violence had to travel a median distance of 4.5km to the nearest off-licence. For the highest rates of serious violence, the median distance to an off-licence was just 1.1km.

Using the mesh block analysis, crime rates were calculated for distances from liquor outlets. On average nationwide the incidence of serious violent crime doubled once you got within 900m of a liquor outlet.

Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan said the current law did not take into account how many outlets were in an area when granting licences.

Well that’s just ridiculous! Surely the application process for a liquor licence should recognize that the amount of outlets is directly related to the amount of disorder caused.

Despite the obvious correlation between availability of alcohol and crime rates, some areas of New Zealand such as Manukau City have seen an increase in off-licence venues by 234% between 1990 and 2008... which is absolute madness! Talk about the booze barons calling the shots.