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Strong momentum across local government for alcohol law change - AHW

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

- Whanganui and Hamilton City Councils vote to support MP ChlÓ§e Swarbrick’s Private Members’ Bill

- The Bill seeks to empower community voices to address local alcohol availability and reduce the harm from alcohol sponsorship of sport

Whanganui District Council and Hamilton City Council are the latest to join growing calls for stronger protections from alcohol harm. This week they followed the recent leadership by Auckland and Christchurch City Councils by voting in support of MP ChlÓ§e Swarbrick’s Private Members’ Bill "The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill" (the Bill). Hamilton City Council is also calling on the Minister of Justice to conduct a full review of New Zealand’s liquor laws this Parliamentary term.

Key provisions of the Bill include removing the unique appeals process from Council Local Alcohol Policies and ending alcohol sponsorship of broadcast sport.

Dr Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, welcomes the momentum building across local government for alcohol law change. "Neighbourhoods across Aotearoa are saturated with bottle stores, cheap alcohol, and in-your-face advertising. The alcohol industry has taken advantage of the appeals process to delay local protections and continue to put profits before people. By removing the appeals process, finally our communities can have their voices heard and we can protect our most vulnerable, including tamariki. The inequities in alcohol harm, that are particularly experienced by Māori, demand urgent attention," says Dr Jackson.

Increased protections afforded by the Bill are paramount for reducing alcohol-related harm. The burden of harm falls heavily on Emergency Departments, where around one in five presentations at night are alcohol-related. Protections like the abolishment of the appeals process for local alcohol policies are also pertinent for Hamilton City Council, who shelved their policy in 2017 amidst industry pressure, but are now considering revisiting policy development.

Children also stand to gain from greater protections from alcohol sponsorship of broadcast sport. Research shows that exposure to alcohol advertising causes children to start drinking earlier, and to drink more heavily.

In short, the recent slew of support for the Bill highlights the growing momentum and increasing number of voices rightly concerned about alcohol harm in their communities. Alcohol Healthwatch expects other Councils may soon show similar leadership.

"We are thrilled to see the continued calls for alcohol law change," Dr Jackson says. "We urge other Councils to follow suit, and to also support Minister Faafoi in his impending review of our liquor laws this Parliamentary term. Stronger, best-practice regulations are the clearest path to thriving, healthy communities with less alcohol harm."

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