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Time to change community attitude to alcohol
25 August
Tariana Turia

If we are to address New Zealand's binge drinking culture then we need to change the attitude to alcohol in our communities.

There are many aspects of yesterday's alcohol law reform package announcement that I support, however increasing the purchasing age is not one.

It is my intention to support the legislation to select committee stage so that we can hear public feedback on the proposed changes.

While I was opposed to the lowering of the drinking age in 1999 the reality is the world has moved on and targeting young people is not the solution to the issues we are facing today.

What we need to address is the attitude and drinking culture which is bringing undue harm to our communities.

Leadership is the key to changing behaviour and adults need to understand that our young people are emulating their behaviour.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to the abuse of alcohol.

For too long society has glamourised alcohol when in reality it contributes to family violence, sexual violence, driving fatalities and impacts on people's ability to work.

I would like to see a more comprehensive approach with more recommendations adopted from the Law Commission's report instead of the proposed 'tinkering around the edges' of the law.

We should be lowering drink-driving limits and limiting liquor promotion and advertising. We need to challenge the liquor industry and its inappropriate influence on our communities.

The prevalence of alcohol, its low cost and the relentless marketing has created a permissive environment in which excessive drinking has become normalised.

Too often we are seeing the heavy promotion of alcohol designed to appeal to young people.

Prior to colonisation alcohol was not found in Maori communities. In fact Maori lived in one of the few parts of the world that had not developed alcoholic beverages.

But I have great faith that just as our people have stood firm in challenging the impact of alcohol in earlier times, that once again we can work together to rid our communities of the harm caused by waipiro - literally stinking water.

In 1879 all South Island tribes petitioned parliament for the total prohibition of alcohol and prohibition in the King Country lasted until 1953.

In Tairawhiti women challenged the men who wrote the famous haka – Poropeihana, in 1927 opposing legislation on the prohibition of alcohol. These women called on Apirana Ngata to stand tall and promote a message that alcohol abuse was not part of the Maori dream.

There is so much more we can do and more investment in the addiction treatment sector and workforce is another approach I will be strongly advocating for.

In a perfect world alcohol would not feature in our communities but the reality is it does so we now must strive towards enabling our whanau and communities to take control of their health and well being and limit the damage alcohol can do in their community.

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