"NZ Is A Nation Of Drunks"

Or so goes the headline in a statement issued by ADAC ltd. The quote is allegedly attributed to the mayor of Auckland John Banks after the council failed in its efforts to make most suburban bars close by midnight.

“NZ is a nation of drunks”, says Auckland’s mayor, John Banks after withdrawing proposed bylaw changes which would have compelled most suburban bars to close by midnight.

Roger Brooking, spokesperson for ADAC said that he was reluctant to agree with John Banks about anything but on this occasion had to agree that Mr Banks was right. Mr Banks acknowledged that the proposed bylaw closing Auckland bars at 11pm was a policy blunder but it does not hide the fact that New Zealand has become a drunken nation.

Elated publicans said the proposed law change was unworkable and would have sent some broke. Mr Banks said that liquor bylaws would never deal with abuse. He was unsure the wider community was serious about the problem.

“New Zealand incorporated is quite a drunken community,” he said. “The abuse of alcohol is endemic and the cost is appalling, consequently the education process is not working.” It was crazy that people could end up with 10 drink-driving convictions and not be jailed, he said. “Are we serious about alcohol abuse? The answer is no, definitely no.”

Perpetuating drink driving

Mr Brooking agreed that New Zealand was not serious about the way it deals with alcohol abuse and with drink drivers in particular. “The New Zealand system actually facilitates repeat drink driving by allowing 95% of all drink drivers to get their drivers licence back without attending an assessment or treatment for their drinking problem. We also impose totally adequate sanctions on drink drivers,” he said. Currently the maximum sentence for stealing a car is seven years while the maximum for killing someone while drink driving is only five years.

“That’s just ridiculous” said Mr Brooking. “It seems to demonstrate that New Zealanders value their cars more than they value human life.”

We have to agree with him on that. Some evidence on how deep rooted the problem really is:

One of the South Island’s top transport officials and anti-drink-driving campaigners is Dennis Frank Robertson who quit his job after he was convicted of drink-driving in Christchurch earlier this year. To add insult to injury he is/was chairman of the New Zealand Roadshow Trust, which promotes road safety with programmes in schools. Great example to set kids mate.

Mr Robertson put his finger on tackling the problem as far back as 2003 when he told The Press the answer to reducing alcohol on the roads was simple New Zealanders had to change their attitude.

That is what challenging the New Zealand psyche is all about. The solution is in our heads and we have got to get over the fact that we think it’s someone else’s problem,” he said.

We can’t get over it either.