Otago 2nd highest for injuries from alcohol: ACC

Dunedin has become a "destination" for out of control drinking - and it's not just students....
Dunedin has become a "destination" for out of control drinking - and it's not just students. Photo: ODT files
North Dunedin’s drinking culture and perception as a "desirable" youth drinking destination is believed to have driven the Otago region to record the second-highest rate of alcohol-related injury in the country.

Accident Compensation Corporation data shows there were 216 claims for alcohol related-injuries in Otago in 2023 — 0.0848% of the region’s population.

The only other region to record a higher rate was the Marlborough District, with 0.237% of the population making alcohol-related claims.

Nationwide, there were 3355 claims for alcohol-related injuries in 2023, costing $18,037,294 for people to recover.

Of that, $407,023 was paid for Otago claims.

An ACC spokesman said the number of claims could be even higher.

"In some cases, a claim form may make reference to alcohol, but there is no obligation for the client or health provider to disclose this information.

"So the data should therefore be considered indicative, but not a definitive count of claims."

Alcohol harm prevention officer Sergeant Steve Jones, of Dunedin, said he was not surprised by the data.

"We can understand the reasons for why the data would look like that, because of what we see on the streets when we’re undertaking our duties.

"There’s lots of alcohol-related injuries, from intoxication, damage from glass — lost of things like that.

"Certainly, in Dunedin, alcohol is a big problem. I’ve quoted this before — North Dunedin is one of our most high-risk, vulnerable communities in the country when it comes to alcohol harm."

While young people under the age of 25 were a significant contributor to the statistics, Sgt Jones said it was not just Dunedin students driving the numbers.

"We have a large contingent of people aged 18-25 who come in from out of town, from the likes of Invercargill, Christchurch and Auckland.

"It’s definitely not just Dunedin students."

Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ōtepoti president Max Phillips believed North Dunedin was a major contributor to the data because the area had turned into a "destination" for youth drinking over the past few decades.

"An area has been created which draws in people from around the region and the rest of the country, for the purposes of partying and drinking quite heavily.

"It’s a culture that North Dunedin has facilitated.

"That, of course, results in a lot of issues with ACC claims and alcohol-related injuries.

"We know from talking to agencies like Campus Watch, that one of their biggest jobs is transporting young people from North Dunedin to the ER because they’ve hurt themselves or given themselves alcohol poisoning.

"Not all of them are students."

He said a solution may be possible if multiple agencies worked together on the drinking culture of North Dunedin.

"There is no-one agency that can do it alone.

"We need to make changes to make sure that it is not such a desirable place for young people to drive down from places such as Christchurch, in order to be part of it.

"It is very problematic in the way that it draws people down and perpetuates all those problems that we see."

The ACC data comes on the heals of recently released University of Auckland research which showed Queenstown had New Zealand’s second-highest level of alcohol consumption, based on wastewater testing.

Scientists tested wastewater in 10 areas around New Zealand for ethyl sulphate — a compound excreted after the body metabolizes the ethanol in an alcoholic drink.

Westport recorded the highest level of alcohol in wastewater.