Dignitaries call for tough alcohol action

By Derek Cheng

A group of prominent New Zealanders - three knights and two dames, two former Governors-General, three archbishops, leaders of the Maori and Pacific communities and sports icons - yesterday presented a statement to Parliament calling for strong action on alcohol.

The group, led by Sir Paul Reeves, endorsed the 5+ solution and called for political parties to stop using the conscience vote as a way of avoiding this "major social problem of our time".

The solution includes: raising both the price and purchase age, reducing accessibility and advertising of alcohol, and increasing drink-driving measures.

The group also called for more treatment for heavy drinkers.

Alcohol issues in Parliament have traditionally been decided by conscience vote.

Sir Paul called on the Government to reconsider raising the excise tax on alcohol, something Mr Key has already ruled out.

"You can get three bottles of wine for $20 - we must get rid of that."

He said the Law Commission's recommendations needed only the political courage and will to be passed into law.

The press conference was chaired by National MP Jackie Blue, who said there were 700,000 problem drinkers in New Zealand who inflicted social costs totalling $25 billion a year.

Dame Te Muranga Batley-Jackson, who spent 20 years on the Parole Board, said alcohol was "evil" and a factor in virtually all violent offences.

She said that in South Auckland there had been a proliferation of alcohol outlets and stronger leadership on the issue was needed, including among Maori.

"All is not well, writing reports is great but we need more action at the coalface."

THE 5+ SOLUTION

1. Raise alcohol prices.
2. Raise the purchase age.
3. Reduce alcohol accessibility.
4. Reduce marketing and advertising.
5. Increase drink-driving counter-measures.
PLUS: Increase treatment opportunities for heavy drinkers.

- NZ Herald

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