Rural communities need to change the present culture of
binge-drinking and drink-driving, those in the emergency
Otago rural area acting commander Inspector Andrew Burns, of
Dunedin, said alcohol was a factor in the ''vast majority''
of crimes in rural areas.
People were consuming alcohol differently in rural
communities and the problem was not as ''visible'' as it was
in cities, but it was still a problem, he said.
''In the rural community it's no different [to urban
settings],'' Insp Burns said.
''With a lot of domestic violence, alcohol is a factor and in
violent crime it's usually a factor.''
St John Winton station manager Shane Batchelor, of Winton,
said while only about 2% of ambulance callouts were alcohol
related, there was a problem with the drinking culture in
rural communities, especially among people who were willing
''I don't think kids think they are bulletproof,'' Mr
''They just don't think it [crashing] will happen to them.
When they are drunk they think their skills are much
It was a problem which Insp Burns had witnessed as well.
''In the rural community there appears to be an acceptance of
a level of alcohol consumption,'' Insp Burns said.
''There's a lack of taxis, people have to drive to and from
events and we have a willingness of people to drink-drive
because it's been done for a long time.''
The Southern District Health Board released a report last
month, titled ''The Impact of Alcohol on the Health of
Southern Communities'', which showed the Southern District
had the highest prevalence of hazardous drinkers in New
Zealand with 25.1% of people within the Southern District
(Otago and Southland) classed as hazardous drinkers.
More than 500 health, emergency and related professionals
were surveyed for the report and more than 80% of those
surveyed said alcohol had a major or leading role in violent
crime, domestic violence, accidents, injury and child
The cost of alcohol-related harm to the Southern District was
estimated to be more than $1.4 million a year.
Rural Women New Zealand national councillor Margaret
Pittaway, of Cromwell, said the drinking culture in rural
communities was a concern and resulted in ''delinquent
behaviour and the destruction of property''.
''It's not entirely a young person's issue,'' Mrs Pittaway
''We have some older problem drinkers in our area, so I
wouldn't point the finger at the young ones.''
Although she could not offer any solutions to the problem,
she did not believe closing bars earlier, as had been
suggested in the past, would be effective.
''They would just go in and buy what they think they need,''
Mrs Pittaway said.
''We can look back to the 6 o'clock closing and that didn't
really change the way people drank. They went: `We have so
many hours to drink and let's get to it'.''
A strong police presence in communities had curbed the issue,
but there was little more police could do, she said.
Insp Burns said he believed pressure from home was the best
way to tackle the issue.
''At the end of the day it's a collective responsibility of
all people in the rural community,'' Insp Burns said.
If people had a problem with the drinking habits of someone
they lived with they should let them know the harm it was
causing, he said.
Mr Batchelor said ''harder hitting'' education was the key.
''You don't have to go out and get completely bombed out of
your brain,'' Mr Batchelor said.
- by Timothy Brown