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Source: Alcohol Healthwatch

Alcohol harm reduction experts are deeply disappointed with Tauranga City Council’s draft Local Alcohol Policy currently out for public consultation. They are calling for everyone to have their say on the availability of the country’s most harmful drug.
“The Bay of Plenty has the second highest prevalence of hazardous drinking in the country and high rates of alcohol-related admissions to hospital. Yet the draft policy fails to tackle the major source of alcohol sales and harm, namely off-licences including supermarkets and bottle stores” says Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, Dr Nicki Jackson.
In New Zealand, off-licences sell around 75% of all alcohol and often at the cheapest prices. Their retail exteriors are often prominent with alcohol advertising and signs, increasing the normalisation of alcohol in the community and exposing vulnerable persons, such as children and those with alcohol use disorders, to the harms from alcohol advertising. But when Councils have tried to reduce off-licence availability in their policies, they have faced lengthy and costly legal appeals from the supermarkets and bottle stores.
“Almost two-thirds of Bay of Plenty residents support reducing the number of places that sell alcohol. We can’t let the risk of legal appeals from the off-licence sector be placed ahead of community wishes for greater control,” says Dr Jackson.
Dr Tony Farrell, local GP and Chair of Alcohol Action NZ, sees the harm from alcohol in his local medical practice. “We are calling for earlier closing hours for off-licences and a halt to the growth of off-licences in Tauranga’s most deprived neighbourhoods. It is unjust that our bottle stores are disproportionately concentrated in areas of high deprivation. We are also calling for no new bottle stores next to schools and other sensitive sites”, says Dr Farrell.
The only restriction to the availability of alcohol in the draft policy is from pubs, bars and clubs in the City Centre, with the proposal to reduce their closing hour from 3am to 2am, thereby bringing in an earlier one-way door policy at 1am.
“I fully support the reduction in on-licence trading hours, which is backed up by strong research. However, off-licences must also close earlier, as we know this can reduce harm, particularly to young people. Later alcohol purchases are more likely to be made by our heaviest drinkers and this puts everyone at risk of harm”, says Dr Farrell.
“Every resident of, and visitor to, Tauranga stands to gain from a reduction in the availability of alcohol. With less alcohol being consumed, we can improve our physical and mental health, reduce family harm, have safer roads and communities, and lift employment and productivity. We call on everyone to go to to have their say by 5pm, December 20″ ends Dr Jackson.