Māori Public Health experts, Hāpai te Hauora are calling for alcohol harm to be addressed and prioritised in the wake of alarming statistics released last week.
In response to the Prime Minister's recent announcement to focus on "bread and butter issues" this election season, Hāpai te Hauora advocates for the recognition of public health and alcohol policy as fundamental to the well-being of whānau and communities in Aotearoa.
"Addressing alcohol-related harm is indeed a 'bread and butter' issue," said Jason Alexander, CEO of Hāpai te Hauora. "Alcohol misuse is directly related to social stability, economic productivity, public safety, and the overall health of our communities. These issues are the very fabric of our society and all have one major issue at the core, and that is the impact of alcohol on whānau.
The call for alcohol law reform comes on the heels of disturbing research released last week, with research released by the University of Otago finding that alcohol is now the most harmful drug in New Zealand. Data released by Waka Kotahi showed deaths involving drink-driving in Aotearoa have doubled since 2013 - reaching a 10-year peak last year.
Tara Dymus, Regional Māori Public Health Lead, responds to these alarming figures: "We cannot ignore these devastating statistics. They underscore the urgent need for substantial policy changes to mitigate alcohol's impact on our communities. The rising numbers of drink-driving deaths and the confirmation of alcohol as our most harmful drug should serve as a stark wake-up call." Hāpai te Hauora emphasises that comprehensive alcohol law reform must encompass not only regulations on alcohol access but also broader social and health strategies. These include preventive measures, education, and mental health support.
"We are calling on the government to take an active role in creating a safer, healthier Aotearoa, and we're asking for everyone in the beehive to start looking at how we can address this issue" Alexander concludes. "Comprehensive alcohol reform isn't a peripheral issue; it's a matter of public health, social stability, and equity. It's about prioritising the health and wellbeing of our people, our most important 'bread and butter' issue - and a matter of urgency for us as a nation."