Counting Crime is a Herald series looking at where and when offending is happening in the community - and who the victims are. Each day we will look at a different category of crime and examine the numbers, meet the people affected the most and reveal the times, days and places you are more likely to fall victim. Today we look at assaults.

Violent crime throughout New Zealand has an alcoholic current running through it.

Booze continues to be the most common recreational drug in New Zealand, and police estimate more than a third of all offences are committed by an offender who has been drinking.

Health Promotion Agency (HPA) general manager of policy, research and advice Cath Edmondson, told the Herald that several factors contribute to our country's violent drinking culture.

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"One is obviously age. Young people tend to drink more alcohol and have higher rates of hazardous drinking, even though it's gone down," she said.

Socio-economic deprivation was another key factor.

However reported hazardous drinking has also been decreasing for certain demographics.

"It appears to be," Edmondson said. "Basically what appears to have happened, over a longer period, from around 2006, is there has been a decrease both in those who report drinking alcohol and those who report drinking hazardously. In particular 18- to 24-year-olds.

"It's a drinking pattern that's measured through the AUDIT questions that people are asked. If your score a certain amount of points you are classed as drinking hazardously."

She said the HPA works closely with police on a range of ways to help prevent alcohol-induced violence.

"We support both police and councils, the licensing inspectors and public health officers, working with them, making sure the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act is implemented effectively."

The HPA also provides police with resources, to help support them with effective training and tools.


"One example is the intoxication guidelines. Under the act you're not supposed to serve an intoxicated person, and we've given police [an explanation] of what that actually means so bars and restaurants can use them," Edmondson said.

"There's a link with common violence. I think there's differing opinions as to why there is that link, whether it's the characteristics of that person or environment. But there is definitely a link."

New Zealand's drinking culture and patterns

There is evidence to suggest hazardous drinking has increased for 45-54 year olds. Photo / File
There is evidence to suggest hazardous drinking has increased for 45-54 year olds. Photo / File

New Zealand has fairly similar patterns to Australia.

And when highlighting the issue of binge drinking, or pre-loading, there are several reasons why we drink in excess regularly: most often high prices and social dimensions for a weekend booze binge.

The latest Ministry of Health health survey shows the proportion of adults over 15 who reported drinking alcohol in the past 12 months has remained fairly constant over the past few years.

• 2015/16 - 80 per cent
• 2014/15 - 79.5 per cent
• 2013/14 - 80.2 per cent

It has decreased over a longer period of time - from 83.6 per cent in 2006/07.

From the same survey in 2015/16, 20.8 per cent of adults (15+) reported a hazardous drinking pattern.

Hazardous drinking is an established alcohol drinking pattern that carries a risk of harming the drinker's physical or mental health or having harmful social effects on the drinker or others. It is defined as a score of eight or more points on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).

Although there is evidence drinking in the younger age groups may have declined, there is evidence it has increased for 45-54 year olds.

• 15-17 year olds - 20 per cent in 2006/07, 11 per cent in 2014/15
• 18-24 year olds - 43 per cent in 2006/07, 34 per cent in 2014/15
• 45-64 year olds - 12 per cent in 2006/07, 18 per cent in 2014/15

New Zealanders living in the regions are also statistically more prone to higher levels of hazardous drinking, according to the survey's data (2011-2014).

The national age-standardised prevalence rate of hazardous drinking from 2011 to 2014 is 17.4 per cent.

But, the following DHBs were significantly higher than that national rate: Hawke's Bay (27.7 per cent), Tairawhiti (26.3), Southern (23.2), Whanganui (22.9), Bay of Plenty (20.9), Taranaki (20.8), Northland (20.7).

However, the following DHBs were significantly lower than the national rate: Counties Manukau (14.4 per cent), Nelson Mal borough (13.1), and Canterbury (11.6).

Read more stories from the series here:

Counting Crime: NZ's CBDs our most dangerous places
Counting Crime: 'His life has been erased'
Smash and grab victim: 'just don't leave stuff in your car'
Car stolen by brazen thieves as couple slept 5m away
An in-depth look at offending and victims in New Zealand
Thefts from cars - when, why, how and who
Retailers in harm's way
Retail thefts cost country $1.2b
Small business owner more vigilant