I'd like to acknowledge the work of all of those here today and underline the great importance to our community of what you do. Thank you to the Canterbury District Health Board for coordinating this meeting of minds; to the various local authorities and agencies in attendance for your efforts to oversee and guide the development of alcohol-related strategies and policies; and to the community and welfare groups here today for the vital work you do in our communities every day.
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 has enabled Councils to develop Local Alcohol Policies that, through our responsibility for alcohol licensing, support the Act's objectives of minimising alcohol-related harm in the community and ensure the safe sale, supply and consumption of alcohol.
Those of you who have followed my previous interest in these matters will know that I believe that Parliament failed to deal with the most important issues that could have made a real difference. The ability to develop Local Alcohol Policies that deal primarily with availability without addressing the impact of matters like price, in my view, minimises the value of these policies. The Government's announcement of a reduced BAC level is welcome.
We simply can not ignore the facts.
As you are all well aware, alcohol can be linked to a myriad of social, health and violence issues. Figures produced by some of the agencies represented here today count the cost to New Zealand of alcohol-related harm at around $5 billion a year. It's estimated that up to 1000
New Zealanders die from alcohol-related causes every year and that more than 300 alcohol-related offences are committed every day.
The new Council has been handed a draft Local Alcohol Policy by the previous council. Public consultation drew strong feedback from right across the community. Our new Council now needs to consider that feedback and decide
whether to approve the policy for the next step in the process, namely public notification. We have not yet considered this as a full Council and we will need
to discuss the issues. I personally think we need to think about the Local Alcohol Policy in terms of the transitional state of the city post earthquake and where we will be in even five years time.
Creating and finalising the policy creates the challenge of taking measures to reduce harm and promote responsible, safe drinking, whilst at the same time recognising the role the hospitality/entertainment sector plays in our city. There are also clear indicators that there will be legal challenges and it may be that we need to discuss whether there are ways we could resolve issues without resorting to court.
Christchurch clearly had alcohol-related issues before the earthquakes and, while the quakes have temporarily shifted these issues from the Central City to the suburbs, they have not gone away and there is no reason to believe they will not return to the Central City as the rebuild progresses, unless we anticipate how those might be addressed ahead of time.
As I said before the tools the Council has under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act are limited. Beyond the Local Alcohol Policy, we as a community must look to develop a culture where vibrancy and liveliness is not so closely associated with heavy drinking. We, as the key local agencies, must strive to find solutions to the issues facing our community and I welcome the opportunity to work with you all to achieve that.