Alcohol bill step in right direction to reduce harm

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) commends the Government’s passing of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Bill yesterday. While there is still much more to be done to reduce alcohol harm in this country, this is a step in the right direction.

The bill will facilitate better engagement by local communities in Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) to stem the torrent of health, social and criminal outcomes from alcohol.

“For too long people have had no way to make their communities healthier by reducing the number of cheap alcohol outlets which are swamping many disadvantaged neighbourhoods,” HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.

LAPs were intended to give more control to communities over alcohol availability, to reduce immense harm from drinking as successive governments failed to implement wider, protective measures. 

But the government that passed the current alcohol legislation handed control over the LAP process to the alcohol industry via the appeal process, enabling those who profit from alcohol harm to stall or stop their development.

“It was virtually impossible for Councils to adopt the Local Alcohol Policy that they had developed with their communities because of the need to fight appeals from the alcohol industry,” HCA Rōpū Apārangi Waipiro (Alcohol expert panel) member Professor Jennie Connor said.

“Now that avenue has been closed and Local Alcohol Policies will be able to reflect the needs of the people affected.”

HCA celebrates the long-awaited correction to an unfair LAP process but says much more is needed to reduce alcohol harm.

Dr Karen Wright, Rōpū Apaarangi Waipiro co-chair points out that: “125 submissions on the Bill raised concern about the absence of Te Tiriti in alcohol legislation. It is critical for Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be embedded in alcohol legislation, not just in its objectives but in all its processes, to ensure that legislation provides appropriate authority and protection for Māori whānau, hapū, iwi and hapori.”

Connor identifies that “ we need to act to reduce the affordability of alcohol and alcohol marketing which also push up the level of consumption in Aotearoa as recommended by the World Health Organisation.”

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