Who makes the laws – Police or Parliament?

July 20th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A stoush is brewing between Wellington bar owners and police over lockout laws.

Bar owners around the Courtenay Place nightlife hub have accused police of trying to “force” a one-way door policy on the capital’s party precinct by objecting to every 4am licence renewal.

Hospitality New Zealand Wellington regional manager Dylan Firth said police had approached many licensees and indicated that, if they did not accept conditions, police would oppose the licence renewal, and the licensee would have to go to a hearing, racking up considerable legal costs.

More outrageous behaviour from the Police. Their submissions on licences should be focused on the track record and behaviour of the licensee, not on what hours they open.

The Police submitted to both Parliament and the local Council wanting an earlier closing time for bars. Their views were heard, and the democratically elected MPs and Councillors voted for a 4 am closing time.

But not content with this, the Police are effectively trying to bully bars into closing earlier, trying to have their licenses removed unless they comply. This is awful behaviour. Again the Police should only be submitting on how well the licensee complies with the law.

Police had made it clear they intended to seek a one-way door condition on each new on-licence application, and each on-licence renewal, in the Wellington CBD, he said.

A one-way door policy would stop anyone entering a bar after a set time, such as 2am or 3am. Those already inside at the cutoff time would be allowed to stay until the 4am closing time.

An issue which was again considered carefully by Parliament and the Wellington City Council. They heard all the evidence and decided that a one way door policy would cause more harm than good. But the Police know better than the law makers, so they use their special position to try and have their will imposed.

Nick Mills, whose family employs 160 people in its group of businesses including Bettys, Public, Hummingbird, Boston, Edison’s Superette, The Tasting Room and Spruce Goose, said Courtenay Place was nothing like it used to be, and a one-way door policy would be detrimental to business, as it had been in Sydney.

“No-one is thinking about the hundreds of workers who will have to start again when a business shuts.”

The legal battle to renew a licence for Siglo saw him spend eight times more than it would usually cost for a licence, he said.

“Places like Edison’s only open two nights a week, and paying for the legal fees for a licence would cost at least 50 per cent of its profit for a year. It’s ludicrous.”

He never had a problem with the police before, and thought of them as allies.

“I don’t think they should oppose [bar] owners trying to renew a licence when they have an exemplary history in the industry. They are trying to change the law by force.”

I think it is time for the Police to be hauled into line. If necessary the law should be changed, so the only issues they can submit on to licensing authorities is the track record of the licensee in obeying the law.

The alcohol work the Police need to do more of

June 29th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police are frustrated at the number of licensed premises in Auckland’s suburbs selling alcohol to minors.

In a sting operation over the weekend, four of the six on-licence premises Auckland police targeted served alcohol to under-18s.

Auckland City Police Prevention Manager Inspector Gary Davey called the result “hugely disappointing”.

“These premises are ignoring their responsibilities under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.”

The six bars were all in Auckland’s central suburbs, with several in Onehunga and Epsom.

One of the premises served alcohol to a 15-year-old who presented ID clearly showing their age, Inspector Davey said.

The result is similar to other recent sting operations in the Auckland City Police District.

One operation in March saw five out of seven bars serve alcohol to 16 and 17-year-olds.

In this area I think the Police do very good work. Bars need to be not just asking for ID, but checking it. If they don’t, then they should get sanctions.

I’d much rather the Police put more resources into enforcing the laws we have, rather than trying to change the law by insisting that certain types of alcohol should not be sold, or they’ll object to a licence.

Now Police want to ban new bars for six years!

June 19th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The smartphone footage shows them puffing up their chests and barging into each other. One of them shapes up to a woman in black shorts. He flattens her off her high-heels and she lands heavily head-first on the concrete.

In another video caught on CCTV a man falls over as he attempts a roundhouse kick. Another pummels his fists into him as he lies on the ground.

The two videos, taken two months apart, at roughly the same spot on Auckland city’s Fort St, show the moment tensions spill over into late-night brawls that end with multiple people in hospital, or facing criminal charges – or both.

For police, the videos give them two new pieces of evidence in their argument for tougher restrictions on when people should be able to drink in the city.

They are mounting a case for a six-year ban on all new bars and bottle shops in Auckland’s CBD, as well as a 1am one-way door policy and a 3am close.

This is just unbelievable. The Police in Auckland advocate a six year ban on new bars or bottle shops, and their “rationale” is a video of a couple of fights.

The Police are losing all perspective on alcohol. Why don’t they go the whole hog and demand 6 pm closing comes back?

Inspector Gary Davey says it boils down to a “moth to the flame” argument. The more bars, the more violence. The longer bars are open, the greater the chance of ugly episodes flaring up.

The more sporting fixtures a city has, the more violence. Let’s ban rugby matches. Also the more men that go out at night, the more rapes occur. Let’s have a curfew of 8 pm for men.

Public health zealots strike again!

June 16th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Guests at a glamorous fundraising dinner will be served thimble-sized portions of alcohol with each course because of concerns about drink-driving and the ability of female guests to handle their liquor.

Wellington chef Martin Bosley, who will prepare food for the event, has labelled the decision by health officials as “ridiculous” and says it could have serious ramifications for other events across the country.

Te Āwhina Marae in Motueka will host a seven-course degustation fundraising dinner with Bosley on June 25.

But the Marae says the Nelson-Marlborough Public Health Service was dissatisfied with limits of 100ml per course, or even 75ml, so it will be down to 50ml.

That equates to one-fifteenth of a standard wine bottle, or less than one-sixth of a 330ml can of beer.

Bosley said the limits were very disappointing.

“Are you syringing it into people’s glasses? It’s just ridiculous” he said.

As a chef, “what we do is about generosity,” Bosley said, adding that the relationship between wine and food was key.

A marae team member, who did not want to be named, said the local Public Health Service health was concerned about drink-driving and the ability of female guests to handle alcohol.

“They didn’t really talk much about the standard drinks for men.”

This was despite the marae hiring at least one bus to shuttle guests who might be travelling from Nelson.

After “protracted negotiations” the marae felt compelled to agree to the 50ml per course limit, the team member said.

It was not clear how the rule would be enforced but serving staff were being trained to serve the tiny amounts.

The Nelson-Marlborough District Health Board and Public Health Service did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Tony Astle, owner-chef at Antoine’s restaurant in Parnell, Auckland, said the 50ml limit was a case of “bureaucracy gone absolutely berserk”.

“It’s ludicrous and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

A 50 ml maximum serve – insane.

Against a responsible drinking campaign

June 3rd, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new responsible drinking campaign that promotes talking to teens about drinking, in the same way parents talk to them about sex, has been questioned by public health officials.

The educational videos, launched by alcohol-industry Cheers, shows parents having awkward one-on-one conversations about alcohol with their teens, using language that could be applicable to the sex talk.

Cheers is run by the Tomorrow Project, the social responsibility arm of Spirits New Zealand, the NZ Winegrowers, and the Brewers’ Association.

The educational advertising campaign launched on Monday with the aim of getting more parents to talk to their teens about drinking.

A survey of 1500 people carried out by Cheers in 2014 found teens believed their parents did a better job at talking to them about sex than about alcohol.

“We talk to our teenagers about sex, so why should alcohol be any different?”

Further interviews with 10 families in 2015 found parents were approaching the subject the wrong way by doing things like sharing war stories, trying to be their friend, or setting restrictive rules around drinking.

Robert Brewer, spokesman for Cheers, said the campaign was about breaking down traditional barriers and promoting conversations.

Sounds a great campaign. Promotes responsible drinking and parents talking to their kids about alcohol. Who can be against that?

Director of alcohol watchdog, Alcohol Healthwatch, Rebecca Williams said the alcohol industry shouldn’t be trusted as the expert on youth health.

“The business of the alcohol industry is to make and manufacture and market alcohol.

They’re not experts in youth health and they’re not experts in parenting.”

Williams said parents should be turning to the public health sector for information from a more neutral perspective.

“I can’t support alcohol industry groups taking over that educational space…

There are always two types of public health activists. One type genuinely support harm reduction, and will support anything that reduces harm. The other type just hates and detests the industry they target and their motivation is to damage the industry, rather than reduce harm.

If you were the former, you’d welcome an industry campaign that promotes responsible drinking and parental responsibility.

Instead we just get a reaction that industry can never be trusted and should have no role in anything – that only self appointed NGOs can be heard.

Should you lose your licence for this?

May 31st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The kegs will be dry and the wine glasses empty at Trentham Racecourse for the first time next month after it failed a police booze sting on Wellington Cup Day.

But drunk punters horsing around were not to blame for Wellington Racing Club breaching its liquor licence on January 23.

Rather, it was an underage buyer with no ID being served alcohol on the seventh attempt of a police sting, after six previous efforts to illegally purchase alcohol had failed.

I’ve blogged before that I support suspension of liquor licenses for supermarkets that sell to under age purchasers.

But here the venue correctly refused six times in a row. Only on a 7th attempt did someone not check.

This is pretty unfair I reckon. A race day where you have maybe hundreds of temporary staff serving thousands with long queues is different to a supermarket or bar where you have permanent staff. There should be some threshold at which you conclude they are irresponsible but I am not sure only failing on the 7th attempt is it.

Police arguing against their own data

May 30th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Controversy over bar trading hours has polarised authorities, with police contesting Auckland Council’s provisional Local Alcohol Policy.

The two authorities are fighting over the time bars should be shut to best prevent alcohol-related brawls.

The argument has come down to one hour that they can’t agree on. A lot can happen in 60 minutes.

Both sides cite contradictory research and statistics to back up their arguments.

A 2013 law change limited the latest closing hour of bars to 4am and handed over the power to councils to enforce earlier closing times and one-way door policies within their own jurisdictions.

Since then, 20 councils have delivered provisional alcohol policies that are now under appeal.

The Auckland Council has proposed closing bars in the city centre at 4am, and a 3am curfew for suburban bars.

The council justified its position by saying closing city-centre bars any earlier would result in a mass exodus of punters at the same time, likely increasing violence.

Police say the council’s argument is “just wrong” and want to see suburban bars close by 1am and city-centre bars shut by 3am – with a 1am one-way door policy – to reduce the consumption of alcohol and, in turn, the fights.

However, police data obtained by the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act shows violent disorder offences, often linked to alcohol intake, have decreased consistently over the past nine years – from 3569 in 2007 to 2541 last year – in the Auckland Central area.

That is around a 30% decrease.  So on average there are eight offences a night, for a city of 1.4 million people.

Davey says the council must decide whether it’s more important to keep bars open an hour later to appease the alcohol and hospitality industries or to close them earlier and reduce the levels of harm.

Inspector Davey is sounding like a wild eyed lobbyist rather than a rational public servant.

He thinks the only interests served by having bars open later are the alcohol and hospitality industries.

No. The tens of thousands of Aucklanders who like to be able to go into town around midnight and drink and dance for a few hours. Of whom, the vast majority have a good time and don’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

But, Davey counters that reducing the availability of alcohol by even one hour would prevent “some of the needless death, serious injury and violence”.

I’m sure it would. But that is an argument to also go back to 6pm closing. It is about the balance.

Countdown gets suspended again

May 8th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Another Countdown supermarket in Blenheim has been banned from selling booze, meaning all three Countdown supermarkets in town are alcohol-free. 

Countdown Springlands, on Middle Renwick Rd, cannot sell alcohol for five days, from May 20-25, after failing a controlled purchase operation in September last year.

Countdown Blenheim, on Arthur St, is serving a 42-day suspension after it was caught selling to minors for the fifth time in same police sting.

As I have said before, Countdown seems to have a real problem here. It is good the law is being enforced.

In the controlled purchase operation in September, two boys, aged 16 and 17, visited seven off-licence premises including Countdown Springlands and Countdown Blenheim. 

The boys gave identification showing their real age to checkout staff and still walked away with alcohol at three stores.

That’s even worse that not asking to see the ID – they saw it, and didn’t even look at the date of birth (or ignored it).

Countdown area manager Joanne McNaught said her team was very disappointed the stores failed the police sting.

“We apologise to our customers again for the inconvenience.”

All checkout staff at Countdown Springlands were re-trained after the sting.

The store hired more supervisors, stopped selling alcohol through self-checkout, and started asking people who looked under 30 for identification instead of people who looked under 25.

Useful steps but why do these breaches keep happening? Not rocket science to check ID.

Sort of funny

April 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sergeant Cameron Browne told the authority that, when he entered the bar with police last month, Andrews was at the DJ booth.

“He used the PA system to tell patrons that the police officers were not real, they were in fact strippers,” Browne said.

“He encouraged patrons to pay police $20 to strip, and continued to encourage patrons to taunt police until the compliance was complete.”

Heh, I find that pretty funny actually.

The officers also testified to often finding intoxicated people in the bar. Some reported seeing drunk people leaving through an upstairs window. 

Thom said he assessed two drunk women, barely able to stand, in the bar who “were among the worse I have seen in some time”. 

Based on serving drunken patrons, it is possible the bar should lose their licence – but not for joking the Police are strippers.

The challenge is determining if they were served at this bar while drunk, or whether they drank elsewhere and then came to Ruby Rabbit.

Sellman on cannabis and alcohol

April 15th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Doug Sellman writes:

The days of cannabis prohibition in New Zealand appear to be coming to an end. Peter Dunne is reflecting a change in public attitudes towards cannabis that is gathering momentum.

The brave admissions by Helen Kelly and others about their illegal use of cannabis for medical purposes has helped reignite public discussion about cannabis law in general.

Drugs, including alcohol, are here to stay – our job is to get better at managing them as a society. Declaring war is a failed strategy, which needs to be replaced by scientifically based harm-reduction approaches.

I agree with this.

Excessive harm is caused at both ends of the continuum, where big business flourishes, one within the law and the other outside of it. Both share the goal of profit maximisation from supplying and selling as much of their drug as possible.

Sellman is basically comparing alcohol companies to illegal drug gangs.

Behind the scenes, however, alcohol corporates target new young customers, avoid paying tax, schmooze politicians, and attempt to denigrate those who point out their devious tactics.

The organised criminal cannabis suppliers also flagrantly target the young and avoid paying tax, but they don’t try to pretend they are anything but gangsters making money out of drug dealing.

So alcohol corporates are gangsters!

Leaving recreational drugs in the hands of big business, without very strong regulation, is a recipe for harm maximisation.

We do have very strong regulation around alcohol. Almost every aspect of the industry is regulated.

Lobbying of our parliamentarians may already be under way by business leaders salivating at the new fortunes they anticipate reaping. This is especially so since the dramatic changes in the United States where four states now have laws allowing private businesses to supply and sell cannabis.

There are alternatives to a private business model, one of which is the establishment of state-owned enterprises.

Government monopolies of retail sales of alcohol exist in Scandinavia and are documented as a highly effective harm reduction intervention for alcohol .

Sellman wants the state to take over the alcohol industry. Every pub, hotel and bottle store in NZ must be owned by the Government. I can’t think of anything more dreadful.

RSAs no longer need permission to serve alcohol on ANZAC Day

April 9th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

RSAs won’t have to apply for a special licence to serve a tipple to veterans on Anzac Day morning after a change to the law was fast-tracked.

Opposition parties supported the changes – but were critical an alcohol law passed in 2012 had meant RSAs faced an expensive licensing process.

The member’s bill was put up by National MP Paul Foster-Bell at the request of the RSA, and amends legislation which requires RSAs to get a special licence, costing about $500 each year, to serve alcohol before midday on Anzac Day.

Good to see the RSA clubs spared the cost.

We have a growing problem with the alcohol licence bureaucracy. The Police are using the licence process to try and impose their views on licensees. They are telling license applicants that unless they agree to whatever the Police demand, they will oppose their licence. And their demands range from earlier closing hours to only stocking types of alcohol the Police officer agrees with.

Countdown’s alcohol problem

April 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A supermarket in Auckland’s Grey Lynn is the latest in a spate of Countdowns caught in a police booze sting.

From April 11, the popular Williamson Ave store will be going dry for five days.

In October 2015, the store sold alcohol to a minor, the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority ruled.

I’m pleased to see strong penalties for breaches. I’ve advocated that we need better enforcement of existing laws rather than new laws.

And there is really no excuse for selling to a minor. If they look under 25 or under 30, you ask for ID – simple.

Progressive Enterprises has suffered license a variety of alcohol related suspensions and fines across its 183 New Zealand Countdown stores.

In August, 2015, Its Dunedin central supermarket lost its alcohol license for three days after illegally over-discounting alcohol.

In January 2015, Countdown Takapuna copped a seven-day alcohol sale ban after it lost its High Court appeal after serving a visibly drunk man caught on CCTV. …

Going back to 2011, the chain has had 21 alcohol license suspensions around New Zealand.

In 2015 a judge said Countdown’s repeated breaches showed systemic failures to stop underage alcohol sales.

This does suggest a possible systematic problem.

I don’t know the stats for New World, but they seem to have very few license suspensions.

Govt wowsers oppose alcohol licence for Twilight Gala

March 27th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Maungaraki School Special Licence Decision

You have to read this decision on an alcohol licence. It was granted, which was the right decision. But the amazing thing is the local Medical Officer of Health opposed it. It shows the wowser culture that public health activists are trying to create so some adults can’t have a drink in the school staffroom during a gala.

The MOH argued that this would normalise alcohol consumption for children, while the committee correctly said that the event is a good opportunity to model responsible and moderate alcohol consumption.

What annoys me is that taxpayers are funding this activism. Surely the Medical Officer of Health has more important things to do than try to prevent a one off alcohol licence for a gala.

Capture by activists

March 1st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Spectator reports:

I’ve been reading the minutes of the meetings held by the committee that reviewed the alcohol guidelines recently. You may recall that this was the first full review since 1995 and led to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Sally Davies, lowering the recommendations for men from 21 to 14 units a week. The female guidelines were left at 14 units. She also claimed that the health benefits derived from moderate drinking were an ‘old wives’ tale’ and claimed that there was ‘no safe level of alcohol’.

The most striking difference between the 1995 review and the 2016 review is the make-up of the panels. Whereas the 1995 committee was dominated by civil servants who had no obvious prejudices for or against alcohol, the meetings held from March 2013 to discuss alcohol guidance were dominated by activist academics and temperance campaigners.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), a small but hardline anti-alcohol organisation, was heavily represented on the committee. The IAS was formed in the 1980s as a direct successor to the UK Temperance Alliance which, in turn, had been formed out of the ashes of the UK Alliance for the Suppression of the Traffic of All Intoxicating Liquors, a prohibitionist pressure group. The IAS receives 99 per cent of its income from the Alliance House Foundation whose official charitable objective is ‘to spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks’. Its director, Katherine Brown, was on the CMO’s panel, as was its ‘expert adviser’ Gerard Hastings, although he failed to disclose his IAS role in his declaration of interests.

This is a problem in NZ also. The fervent activists on an issue dominate the government committees, and then come up with advice reflecting their strongly held opinions.

Alcohol consumption at 18 year low

February 28th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More sophisticated palates and the introduction of strict drink driving laws are believed to be factors in a reduction in the volume of alcohol in New Zealanders’ drinks.  

The volume of alcohol available for consumption on New Zealand streets has hit an 18 year low, according to Statistics NZ, though the amount of alcoholic beverages we consume has stayed the same.

Statistics New Zealand senior manager Jason Attewell said the the total volume of alcohol available in 2015 was the equivalent of two standard drinks a day per person. 

That was down 4.1 per cent on the previous year and the lowest volume of alcohol available per capita since 1997.

Yet the wowsers insist we are drinking more than ever before and we need to restrict hours more, increase taxes more etc etc.

Bullshit story on alcohol not backed by the actual data

December 18th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

First the headline:

Little fear in dearer booze

Then the summary:

Alcoholics say minimum pricing would see them reduce intake, not turn to crime.

But what did the data actually say:

• Survey of 115 detox patients who were dependent on alcohol

• On average they had been consuming 24 standard drinks a day, the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine

When asked if their preferred drink became too expensive:

86% said they would switch to a cheaper drink and/or combine their usual drink with something cheaper

• 13% said they would reduce drinking substantially, to continue with their usual drink

So actually the study found that minimum pricing would not in any way reduce alcohol consumption for the vast vast majority of alcoholics. Only 13% say they would drink less if alcohol was much more expensive.

Somehow this damning data is promoted as backing minimum pricing where every single drinker in NZ would have to pay more for alcohol, so that at best 13% of problem drinkers would drink less.

Talk about having a conclusion written regardless of the facts.

There is a huge amount of global evidence that the heavier the drinker the less price sensitive they are. This data back that, not refutes it.

Police bullying supermarkets

December 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Do Wellingtonians really need to be able to buy alcohol after 10pm?

That question was posed on Monday at the first half of a liquor licence hearing for Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie, where there were also suggestions the supermarket should take some responsibility for alcohol-related incidents in the suburb.

Police and the Regional Medical Officer of Health are both putting the heat on Pak ‘n Save to peg back the number of hours it sells alcohol, which is currently between 7am and 11pm.

Police want the hours cut-off at 10pm. But Pak ‘n Save argues that would be unfair given the Countdown supermarket across the road and near-by off-licences would not be subject to the same restrictions.

Once again the Police are trying to set policy. The City Council, under the law, sets maximum hours for off-licenses. But the Police tries to bully supermarkets into different hours.

Pak ‘n Save owner-operator Dean Galt said any restrictions would simply send those looking for alcohol across the road to Countdown Kilbirnie, which had a 7am till 11pm licence, and they would likely do the rest of their grocery shopping there as well.

“Unless everyone is on the same page, no, it’s not going to change the problem,” he said.

“It’s about convenience. If we don’t offer the customers what they want, they will go elsewhere for the whole shop.”

Sergeant Damian Rapira-Davies, of Wellington Police, put it to Galt that most people buying alcohol after 10pm were not buying large amounts of groceries as well, so the supermarket would not be losing that much business.

The Police are wrong, and they are basically making stuff up. I’ve done work in this area and the vast majority of people buying alcohol from a supermarket late at night (or early morning) are buying groceries also. And further they are ot buying alcohol to drink that night, just as part of their regular shopping.

But Galt disagreed and pointed to sales figures he said showed the proportion of groceries sold after 10pm was much larger than its alcohol sales.

The Police should argue on the basis of evidence, not personal preference.

Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie was banned from selling alcohol for five days in June after allowing a pair of 16-year-old boys to buy booze.

But police said the supermarket was otherwise responsible and if it agreed to the 10pm close-off time then the police would remove its objection to the licence renewal.

This is how the Police operate – agree to our terms or we’ll object to your licence. It’s a form of legalised blackmail.

Rapira-Davies said the supermarket needed to take some responsibility for the alcohol-related harm in the Kilbirnie area.

“It’s our experience that people purchasing alcohol late at night are intending to consume it later that night,” he said.

From bottle stores yes, from supermarkets no. The majority are buying it with their weekly groceries to consume later.

“A proportion of the alcohol harm pictures needs to be recognised as belonging to the applicant … the largest volume [in the area] is sold by this licensee.

None of the alcohol harm belongs to the applicant. It belongs to those who do the harm. The applicant’s responsibility is to act within the law, not sell to minors or intoxicated persons.

“It’s not unreasonable for us to have formed that view.”

Actually it is. It is like blaming banks for people who take out cash and spend it on the pokies. The Police in Wellington constantly bully supermarkets.

McQuillan on alcohol and drugs

December 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Laura McQuillian writes at Stuff:

We, my fellow New Zealanders, are scientifically proven to be a nation of pissheads. 

Getting drunk is our true national sport: whoever gets there the fastest, without falling down, wins.

We’re holding our own against the rest of the world: last year’s Global Drug Survey found while Irish blokes led the boozing charge, followed by the Poles, Kiwi men rolled into third place. We’re also third when it comes to binge-drinking: 2.8 per cent of us admit drinking too much nearly every day of the week.

The survey found one in three of us wants to drink less; for one in five of us, a friend, family member or colleague has suggested cutting back.

Only problem is the Global Drug Survey is not scientific. It is a self-selecting survey and not representative of the population. A better survey is the National Health Survey done by Ministry of Health. It shows 20% of over 15s are non-drinkers, 62% are “normal” drinkers and 18% hazardous drinkers.

Everything about our drinking is embarrassing, from the regrettable texts and drunken pashes, to the pools of vomit along Courtenay Place and cancelled brunches on Sunday mornings.

I’m tempted to quip that’s just Laura’s last big weekend out 🙂

For some that is how they drink, and in my distant past some of that would apply to me. But that is not the majority of New Zealanders.

In my university days, a group of friends would organise an annual “Ranfurly Shield” event. The challenge: dress in rugby garb and drink a dozen 440ml cans of Ranfurly – arguably New Zealand’s worst beer. The first to finish won a decorated shield. It was a bit of student fun – certainly not a healthy pastime, but all survived unscathed.

Now, the whole country can take part in an event that’s nearly twice as bad: “National Crate Day”. For the fifth year running, a radio station and a booze giant are encouraging Kiwis young and old to drink themselves silly (or potentially to death) on a dozen 745ml bottles – or nine litres – of beer in one day.

Over the weekend, while “celebrating” National Crate Day, a 20-year-old in Nelson fell from the back of a ute, hit his head on the road, and ended up on life support with a brain bleed.

The organisers – The Rock, with support from Super Liquor – ask us to consume 30 standard drinks in a matter of hours, two to three times what’s safe to drink in an entire week.

I agree events like National Crate Day are dangerous and should not be promoted. In fact Super Liquor is probably breaking the law if they are promoting it.

When it comes to drugs, on the other hand, we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves in for. Our ecstasy could just kill us, or we might trip for days from new synthetic drugs like N-bomb.

Zero-tolerance hasn’t stopped the drugs a-flowing: 63.5 per cent of Kiwi survey respondents had smoked pot in their lifetime, and a rather surprising 14.7 per cent had used cocaine. 

I highly doubt 15% have used cocaine. This is the problem of a self-selecting online survey. A 2008 scientific survey found 0.6% of adults have used cocaine.

Legalising drugs could help keep users safe: with regulated sales and education on the risks, users wouldn’t have to buy from a black market of potentially-lethal pills and potions, the government would be able to control who’s selling and help encourage safe use.

Start with decriminalising cannabis. At the same time, teach the tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of users how they can continue do so, with full knowledge of what it’s doing to their health, and how they can minimise the risks.

I agree that decriminalising cannabis would be a good thing to do, and allow the focus to go on health and harm prevention.

I have no inclination to use drugs myself – I treasure my brain cells too greatly – but I’d rather those who do use alive and high than preventably dead.

Pushing the issue of drug use under the carpet while letting us drink ourselves to death simply makes no sense.

Again I agree – ideally all drugs would come under the same framework of a health based approach.

2014/15 NZ Health Survey

November 30th, 2015 at 10:14 am by David Farrar

Lots of interesting data in the latest NZ Health Survey.

Some changes from 2007 to 2015:

  • Smoking rate down from 20.1% to 16.6%
  • 15 to 17 year old smoking rate down from 15.7% to 6.1%
  • Maori smoking rate down from 42.1% to 38.1%
  • Drinking (alcohol) rate down from 83.6% to 79.5%
  • 15 to 17 year old drinking rate down from 74.5% to 57.1%
  • Hazardous drinking rate down from 18.0% to 17.7% (but up from low of 14.9% in 2011)
  • 15 to 17 year old hazardous drinking rate down from 19.5% to 10.8%
  • Obesity rate up from 26.5% to 30.7%
  • 15 to 17 year old obesity rate up from 12.0% to 16.4%

So my conclusions are:

  • Smoking rate steadily dropping and teen smoking rate has plummeted which is good. However 5% target for NZ will not be met without a big drop in the Maori smoking rate.
  • A huge drop in the teen drinking rate, which shows how wrong those are claiming the drinking age needs to increase
  • A drop in the overall drinking rate but an increase in the hazardous drinking rate which means measures should target hazardous drinkers, not all drinkers
  • The obesity rate increase starts young. Even under 5s have a 10% obesity rate, which suggests to me parenting is a major factor. Also cultural factors play a big role – 8% of European children are obese, 7% of Asian children, 15% of Maori children and 30% of Pasifika children.

Wendys and alcohol

November 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The moral police are up in arms in Christchurch reports Stuff:

Opposition to Wendy’s Hornby’s bid for a liquor licence is building as it emerges there are 17 other places that sell alcohol within a kilometre of the fast-food outlet.

A misleading figure as only six are on-licenses.

Wendy’s Hornby, on Main South Rd, has applied to the Christchurch City Council for a liquor licence between 8am and 11pm, seven days a week.

It is the first-fast food outlet in New Zealand to make such a move.

I don’t think I have eaten at a Wendy’s for 20 years. But if they want to be able to sell beer along with their food, and they comply with the law, why not. Why is a fast food restaurant deemed unsuitable and cafes and other restaurants deemed okay?

Council information supplied to Woods showed there were 17 licensed premises selling alcohol within 1km of the Wendy’s outlet.

“I think there’s plenty of places in the Hornby area where people can go and enjoy a meal and get a drink with it. I don’t think there’s any need for us to be licensing our fast-food restaurants.”

There were six on-licence premises within 1km of Wendy’s Hornby, five club licences and six off-licences, according to the council information.

The 17 number is deceptive as the fact you can buy some wine at a bottle store isn’t a substitute for whether you can have a drink with your meal. So it is really six on-licenses over 100 hectares of area.

Nora Rangi said she would stop taking her seven grandchildren to Wendy’s if the application was granted.

And that’s a fine response. But the owner of Wendy’s should get to make the decision on whether allowing beer and wine with food will lead to more or fewer customers.

In her submission, she said it allowed easy access to view alcohol consumption for young people.

No it is an offence to sell to under 18s, and the Police are vigorous with doing spot checks and prosecuting those who break the law. If Wendy’s sold to under agers they would lose any licence they gained.

Vicki Bretherton said she was worried about Hornby students and the fact people under 18 could be serving alcohol to customers.

No, under 18s can’t sell alcohol.

Several people said they felt comfortable sending their children to Wendy’s unsupervised, but that would change if the application was successful.

And that is not a decision for authorities. That is a decision from them and Wendy’s. If customers don’t like Wendy’s selling alcohol, then stop going. But don’t try and stop them from doing so, unless there is some reason to think they will breach liquor laws.

Wendy’s chief executive Danielle Lendich said last week the company wanted guests to enjoy a beer with a burger if they chose to, and it was a way for Wendy’s to “up its game”.

Non-alcoholic beverages would still be available, and no alcohol would be served at the drive- through or for takeaway guests.

“Many other family and quick service restaurants have liquor licences including Valentines, the old Cobb & Co, Denny’s and Lone Star, and many QSR [quick service restaurant] concepts that have opened more recently also have liquor licences including Burger Burger, Mexicali Fresh, Zambrero, The Coffee Club and Columbus, ” she said.
“Our principal business will remain the provision of meals to the public and we have no intention of becoming a bar or hangout where people sit all night and drink beer.”
I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

NZers were responsible

November 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Allowing bars to open during Rugby World Cup games didn’t turn the country into the drunken shambles that had been predicted, say the backers of the law change that made it possible.

Police communication centres today said the local aftermath of the All Blacks win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup final in London was quiet.

A law change was made two months ago to allow bars to open early during the tournament, rather than having to apply for special licences. Under the changes, hoteliers had to give police seven days’ notice they would be open.

The change was enabled by a bill from ACT’s sole MP David Seymour, who watched the final at a bar in Auckland’s Mt Eden.

He was happy there had been no major problems and it showed New Zealanders were actually responsible people.

It does.

But there is a bigger lesson about this, and over-regulation.

The current law would have seen far fewer bars able to open, far fewer NZers able to watch the games with their friends, and all sorts of ridiculous requirements and hoops for bars to jump through. And these extra costs would have produced no benefits, as it turned out that actually most people do the right thing.

So let this perhaps be a lesson the next time the nae sayers warn of doom and gloom unless we pass some law to regulate our behaviour.

Is a supermarket responsible after hours for its car park?

November 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A central Wellington supermarket has been accused of being “willfully blind” to years of drunken violence in its car park after hours, including a 30-man brawl just weeks ago.

The car park at New World Wellington City, generally known as Chaffers New World, on Wakefield St has become such a hub for alcohol abuse, fights, theft and disorderly conduct after dark on weekends that police have dubbed it and Blair St “Wellington’s crime corridor”.

New World’s liquor licence is now under threat as a result. It sought a renewal from the Wellington District Licensing Committee on Friday but police raised serious questions about whether it should be granted.

Once the supermarket is closed, surely it is the responsibility of the Police to deal with crime in the carpark, and has nothing to do with the supermarket?

Police told the licensing committee that the majority of those at fault were “young” people either pre-loading before heading to bars in Wellington’s CBD, or side-loading between visits to pubs on Friday and Saturday nights.

In the 12 months since June 2014, the car park was the scene of 30 violence and disorder callouts, 18 alcohol-related harm callouts and 12 theft callouts, excluding shoplifting)

In the early hours of October 11, Police were called to quell a large fight involving up to 30 people.

Two Wellington police officers said they had been raising concerns about the car park since 2013 but their impression was that the store did not care what happened after closing, and was only prepared to do “the minimum” to address it.

Young people go to large open spaces – whether it be car parks or parks. Again why is the supermarket responsible for what happens when they are closed?

Wellington City New World director Gary Baker said he was only made aware of the car park issues in December 2014, and had been working with police to solve the problem since then.

Two extra security cameras had been installed in the car park, the lights were now left on overnight and security guards had been employed after hours.

Sounds responsible.

Chaining up the car park was problematic because some staff, like shelf-fillers and bakers, worked outside of trading hours and it could be dangerous if they had to park further away, Baker said.

The majority of alcohol being consumed in New World’s car park after hours was not purchased at the supermarket, although some of it was, police said.

So if most of the alcohol is purchased elsewhere, again why scapegoat New World?


The carnage the Greens tried to protect us from

September 21st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sideways rain and a biting cold was no deterrent for die-hard Wellington rugby fans who got up in the middle of the night to support the All Blacks.

Hundreds of fans turned out to Wellington bars to see New Zealand play Argentina live at 3.20 Monday morning, New Zealand time.

Wellingtonians Abi Thomas and Philip Stretton were some of the brave ones who got up before dawn to support the boys in black.

Thomas said she could hardly sleep, which made it easier to get up before dawn for the game. She had a day off work Monday so was sipping on a beer.

Stretton wasn’t so lucky, he was drinking coffee and planned to have a few more before his 7.30am start at work.

Hotel Bristol owner Akio Shigeeda said the fans who watched at the Cuba St bar were “really good”.

“The bulk of our sales were breakfasts and coffees, teas, a lot of post-mix, a few beers but nothing excessive, which is good for the police and good for licensing.”

But the Greens told us people would be rolling out drunk past schools, as kids were arriving!

Owner of Dixon St bar Four Kings, Matt McLaughlin, also said they had a good turnout for the All Blacks game, and for the game before it.

About 30 people turned out to the bar for the Wales versus Uruguay match at 1.15am, and about 100 people for the All Blacks versus Argentina game.

“It was a great little crowd,” he said.

McLaughlin said the numbers were pretty standard for a match that early in the morning.

A group of Welsh rugby fans had come in from an all-nighter, but they were well behaved, he said.

“They were fine, they weren’t intoxicated…it proved the point that [an early license is] quite easy to manage.”

Yes you can do an all nighter and not be pissed.

Wellington police did the rounds of bars on Monday morning, and found everything in order, police communications acting shift commander Megan Gouverneur said.

“We had no trouble, no one rolling out on the streets.”

In other words, nothing happened which the nanny statists warned would happen.

Alcohol sachet ban rejected

August 28th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An Auckland community group concerned with keeping Eden Park secure has had its calls for a ban on alcohol sachets rejected by the Government.

Good. They are banned at Eden Park, as is the right of Eden Park. But it would be dramatic overkill to ban them through out New Zealand, in an attempt to stop them being used at Eden Park.

The small pouches contain 20 per cent alcohol and can be hidden in a hand, pocket or wallet. They are cheap, with six sachets costing about $10. According to one manufacturers’ website, this amount of alcohol “certainly packs more punch than your average RTD.”

And cost a lot more. I did the calculations in July:

This is for the equivalent of four standard drinks:

  • 1 litre of 5% beer – $4.40
  • 350 mls of 14% wine – $4.67
  • 700 mls of 7% RTD – $4.82
  • 140 mls of 37.5% spirits – $4.62
  • 250 mls of 20% Cheeky – $20

So in fact they cost four to five times more than other drinks.


Bishop with some alcohol facts

August 27th, 2015 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

Pleased to see Parliament vote 99-21 to allow bars to easily open during the Rugby World Cup. Kudos to David Seymour for getting this law change through Parliament.

I was thinking about the Greens demanding that bars near schools not be allowed to open, even though only three out of 58 games will take place on a schoolday morning. If they had their way I imagine the Backbencher pub in Wellington would have to remain closed, despite it being a very popular rugby destination. You see the Backbencher is very close to not one, not two, not three, but four schools. How terrible. In fact I’m surprised the Greens are not demanding the Backbencher be never allowed to open at all, as hell kids walking down Molesworth Street at 3.30 pm may see people in the Backbencher!

During the debate Chris Bishop addressed some of the claims that alcohol use and abuse in New Zealand has got worse since the laws were liberalised.

I want to put on the record some actual facts around alcohol consumption in New Zealand society. Firstly, the World Health Organization in 2014 did a global report on the use of alcohol in society. Actually what that report shows is that by international standards New Zealanders actually drink a moderate amount. We are 96th in the world for alcohol consumption. We drink about 13.7 pure litres of alcohol per capita. That places us 96th in the world. It is slightly less than the United Kingdom; it is slightly more than France. So actually we are, internationally, average drinkers. What about binge drinking? Well, by international standards New Zealanders are very low binge-drinkers. Our prevalence rate of binge drinking is 5.6 percent. That is half that of Australia’s

So 96th in the world, and a binge drinking rate half of Australia’s.

That is half that of Australia’s, it is a quarter of Canada’s, and it is one-sixth of the United Kingdom’s binging prevalence rate. So is the assertion that we are a nation of binge-drinkers correct? No.

Some NZers binge drink regularly. By far most do not.

The proportion of young people who drink has dropped 25 percent in the last 5 years—that is from 2007 to 2012. It is one-third that of the rate in 2000. What about the number of people who are regular drinkers? That dropped 9 percent between 2007 and 2012. The number of people who are regular drinkers is half that it was in 2000—this is amongst young people. What about the people who are young binge-drinkers? What about the number of people who say that they binge drank in the last month? Between 2007 and 2012 the number of young people in New Zealand who say that they binge drank in the last month has dropped by 18 percent.

And youth drink driving is also well down. The trend for youth drinking is decisively going down – the exact opposite of the impression the wowsers give.