Drunken children as young as 11 smashing up property at night in Whangarei is a wake-up call for society to the dangers of easy access to booze, an alcohol and addiction expert warns.
Whangarei police are urging the public to contact them if they see drunk children out at night after four youngsters under the age of 15 were found heavily intoxicated after a vandalism spree.
Acting Sergeant Jim Adamson said boys aged 11 and 12, and girls aged 14 and 15 were found near Kensington Park at 8.30pm on Sunday.
Mr Adamson said the four were very drunk and had embarked on a window smashing spree at the ASB Stadium. Several panes of glass were smashed at the cricket clubrooms. The four have been referred to the police youth aid section and Child Youth and Family may also be informed.
Mr Adamson said it was a concern that four youngsters, particularly girls, were heavily drunk and out at night. He said police had dealt with at least one of the four in recent weeks in similar circumstances; drunk and causing trouble.
Otago University alcohol and addiction expert Professor Doug Sellman said the situation was a big concern, with multiple dangers of excessive alcohol consumption on youngsters 11-15 years. But the bigger issue was that these children are the canary in the cage for the whole of NZ society.
"The presence of these intoxicated, wayward children should be a big wake-up call for all of us,'' Professor Sellman said.
"If we want a further degraded society, one of the most effective things to do is have a heavy drinking culture, particularly one that ensures that young people can get access to cheap strong palatable [RTDs] alcohol and have an alcohol industry free to market at them through their advertising and sponsorship.''
He said the negative effect of the heavy-drinking culture in New Zealand is exacerbated by the fact the country has developed a big rich/poor divide in the past 30 years and an increasingly "me, me, me'' weak society where the relationships within and between families are weakening.
"These children will have struggling parents, many of whom will be poor and have alcoholism themselves. These families are the victims of current social policy. Just blaming them for NZ's ills will just make them and the overall problem worse,'' Professor Sellman said.
"What we need is a government that will look at what is causing the problem at its source; and in the case of the heavy drinking culture ... we need a government that is prepared to stand up to the alcohol industry, just like it is now standing up to the tobacco industry.''
Anybody who saw drunken children on the streets or in parks at night should ring Whangarei police as soon as possible on 430 4500.