Personal responsibility key

Knowing Dunedin is one of the most statistically safest cities in New Zealand will bring no solace to the families involved in the tragic death of Ryan Court at the weekend.

Nor will it bring comfort to the family of the man in hospital with a fractured skull who was injured after an assault near the cordon put in place following the death of Mr Court.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull speaks volumes when he says, at times, he does not feel comfortable near the Octagon.

But he also admits he does not visit the Octagon very late in the evening.

The Octagon is Dunedin's main gathering spot for social activity in the city.

It has a plethora of bars and restaurants with a wide variety of choice available.

Police say they are concerned the two ''alcohol-related'' incidents resulted in serious harm in a short space of time in the area.

They are right to be - and so too should everyone else in our society.

Earlier this year, the Otago Daily Times published an in-depth series - ''Booze control: Stop and Think''.

The message was excessive drinking changes the way people act.

The solutions to alcohol-related problems rest with individuals, and we urged people to take responsibility for their actions.

Judge Kevin Phillips highlighted the issue in the Queenstown District Court during his sentencing of a 21-year-old labourer who admitted injuring another man with reckless disregard in an incident at a bar in the resort. His comments included an appeal to the community: ''We have ongoing violence in bars in Queenstown ... every weekend serious violence. When are we going to stop condoning it?''

It appears not many of us listened.

Television advertisements - which have gained something of a cult following with the ''yeah ... nah'' theme of being offered, and refusing, more beer - have not had the impact hoped, it must be presumed.

Heavy drinking, in which violence seems to feature, continues to be part of a night out for many. There is no easy fix, because responsibility lies with the drinker.

Changing alcohol laws is a first step, but in the North Island, we see grocery chains prepared to take a local authority through the courts to preserve the right to sell alcohol past the authority's imposed deadline.

Should those grocery chains then be called responsible citizens?

Heavy drinking and violence is not something new.

Back in 2003, then associate health minister Damien O'Connor was championing an increase in the alcohol levy to fund a programme to help dependent and hazardous drinkers who needed support and assistance to reduce or stop drinking.

Mr O'Connor, still a Labour MP, said binge-drinking was pervasive in New Zealand, and not just among youth.

One of the slogans paraded over the years has been it's not the fact that we drink that's the problem; the problem is how we drink.

How many people has that reached?

Court reports from around the region in this newspaper in recent times have been headlined ''Teen likely to be jailed for assault'', ''Trio charged with assault'', ''Man jailed for nightclub attack'', ''Punches alleged'', ''Assault in Octagon'', ''Doorman hit over head with bar stool'' and ''Man charged after assault on holiday-maker''.

Again, this is nothing new, but sadly the message just does not seem to be getting through.

Appropriate use of alcohol is everyone's responsibility and people need to ensure they are enjoying themselves in a way that will not result in harm to themselves or others.

There will be some who go out with the express aim of getting ''liquored up'' and causing mayhem and violence.

For the rest, personal safety and responsibility is becoming a serious issue.

Considerable effort needs to be made to convince everyone that it is time to take personal responsibility and show some restraint.

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