COMMENT:

When I first heard about the Hawke's Bay District Health Board opposing a liquor licence for a primary school fundraiser, I was incensed.

Port Ahuriri School has been holding a wine and food festival for the past 10 years, usually on a Friday evening. Classes are officially over but there are kids around as many accompany their parents to the festival.

The DHB's medical officer of health, Dr Rachel Eyre, has been dead against the school being granted a temporary liquor licence on the basis that consumption of alcohol on school grounds in the presence of children is inappropriate.

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So far, so thin-lipped wowser.

Why try to prevent a fun night out for families involving food and yes, okay, wine?

As far as I could make out there has never been an unpleasant incident as a result of parents getting pie-eyed at the festival, and there seemed to be no good reason why the medical officer of health was getting all righteous and sanctimonious about parents having a good time raising much-needed money for their primary school.

But then I read the comments from former Children's Commissioner and Hawke's Bay paediatrician, Dr Russell Wills.

He quoted the statistic that Hawke's Bay is in the top three district health boards for hazardous drinkers per capita.

He said the number of people needing hospital care as a direct result of alcohol has risen by nearly 100 per cent between 2009 and 2016, with an associated cost of $3 million.

I'm not suggesting for a second the parents of Port Ahuriri school are among the hazardous drinkers that Wills was referring to.

But I can understand why the medical officer of health might find the normalisation of alcohol hard to take when she and the rest of the medical team spend so much time - and so much of the board's money - patching up drunks.

Alcohol is my drug of choice. And, as with any drug, I have to keep an eye on my relationship with it. I seldom do anything in moderation and alcohol is no exception.

It's all or nothing. Periodically, I have three alcohol-free months and I thoroughly enjoy them. Just as I thoroughly enjoy sharing a bottle of champagne with my husband or with friends over lunch.

I have never missed a day of work because of the drink, and if I did, that would be the time to give up. Drinking. Not work.

But there's absolutely no doubt that alcohol-related harm is costly for the taxpayer.

A 2009 report to the Ministry of Health and ACC put the cost at about $5.3 billion per year - it would be a lot more now. And there has to be consequences for that.

Even if the parents of Port Ahuriri School aren't represented in the damaging statistics, I can understand why the DHB is opposed to the idea of alcohol encroaching into a primary school.

They're not being the fun police for the sake of it. And the Hawke's Bay Primary Principals' Association president supports the DHB. It's not a fundraiser he would support at his school, he said.

The culture of drinking in this country isn't all that flash, he said, and it's up to schools to be role models.

I do believe we should all be able to go to hell in our own way. Our own bad habits or predilections are our own business - until they start impacting on others. When other people have to start paying for my choices, that's when they have a right to comment. On that basis, I can understand why Hawke's Bay DHB opposed Port Ahuriri's liquor licence.

Kerre McIvor is on Newstalk ZB, Sundays, 9am-noon.