Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A former National Party logo
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A former NZ National Government introduced a bill in 1999 to reform drinking:

by Peter Petterson

When a former New Zealand National Party Government introduced a bill in 1999 to reform the drinking laws in NZ, and allowed a  Parliamentary  conscience vote, they did not do New Zealand society a favour. The drinking age was reduced to 18 years, off-licences were introduced and as a consequence younger drinkers were given  greater access to alcohol.

 Quite frankly it has become a disaster to society as a whole and has also affected driving on our streets and highways. Drink- driving and other driving offences have also skyrocketed as alcohol has become more accessable to younger teens and children.Youth  drunkenness in the CBD areas of our cities has become a problem for our police and a public nuisance to other citizens. And there has been a proliferation of alcohol outlets in our cities and suburbs - they have sprung up like mushrooms, and robberies and deaths have ensued from them.

So what has the Key National Party - led administration done about it? Apart from the rhetoric a big fat zero! There is now a social cost to New Zealand society. Mores lives are being lost annually as the government delays action and a further reform of our drinking laws.

The Government has allegedly  turned its back on hundreds of pages of official advice to increase the drinking age and reduce the numbers of alcohol outlets, and a claim that the refusal to lower  the drink-driving limitt  was costing an extra  33 lives and  a saving of NZ$238 million a year. These pages have been released under the Official Information Act and showed that lowering  the alcohol limit was the best possible action it could take to reduce the number of road injuries and  deaths caused by drunk drivers. It is obvious that the current approach to drink-driving will not reduce the the level of fatalities.

The government was told that data based on 300 overseas studies showed that 33 lives and 686 injuries could be prevented. A social saving of up to $238 million ayear could be made, and ACC could save an extra $95 million in claims each year.

But the government wants to sit on its heads and do more studies. Why? Because they are obviously coming under pressure from the alcohol industry lobby, despite denials from those involved. The government refuses to reduce the  blood alcohol limit (BAC) from 0.08 down to 0.05 as recommended by experts. This  National Government wants to have a further two years of research before they revisit the limit; there has been years of public discussion and official advice on the matter. They want a good range of public submissions, ministers have claimed. Like Nero they will fiddle while Rome burns - the Rome in this particular scenario being hundreds of more deaths and thousands of maimed New Zealanders, including babies and elderly people.

So let me halt my rhetoric and produce some facts for readers to consider:

What  a lower limit would do:

1/  Save up to 33 lives a year.

2/Prevent up to  686 injuries a year.

3/ Save social costs of up to $238 million a year

4/ACC would save up to $95 million in claims each year.

5/The financial gain would be 173 times the cost.

Knowing your limit:

!/ The current blood alcohol content of 0.08 of alcohol per 100 ml of blood allows a man of average height and weight to drink six standard drinks within 90 mins. For an average woman,  it allows four standard drinks.

2/ A BAC of of 0.05 would allow an average height and weight man  to drink two standard drinks in the first hour and one an hour thereafter. For an average woman it allows one standard drink an hour.

What the Governments opponents say:

Innocent people will continue to be killed on our roads by drinking drivers  while Minister Steven Joyce and his fellow National cabinet ministers say the can't yet make up their minds about lowering the alcohol limit for drivers on NZ roads.

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