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Sharples: Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill

Sale of Liquor (Objections to Applications) Amendment Bill

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 2 July 2008; 8.25pm

Thank you Madam Speaker.

It is an interesting irony that while we are debating this Bill tonight, the Public Health Association conference in Waitangi is also debating strategies to reduce alcohol marketing and promotion at the local level.

The association between alcohol-induced harm and health effects is a significant one. In fact one of the key deficiencies in the Sale of Liquor Act has been the lack of a public health profile.

The Act promotes a pre-dominantly business focus – assuming alcohol to be a mere commodity to be bought and sold.

Yet the reality that we all know too well, is the traumatic and catastrophic costs of alcohol related harm right across the public health spectrum as experienced in physical and sexual violence, road accidents, criminal offences and other negative impacts.

For Maori, we are particularly concerned with the way in which we drink. While the overall rates of consumption are about the same for Maori and non-Maori, Maori are experiencing disproportionate harm from drinking.

Put simply, as the advertisements say, it’s not what we’re drinking; it’s all about HOW we’re drinking. And the how is all about too much at one time.

The Maori Party has consistently raised our concerns around the impact of having unregulated access to alcohol.

We believe, therefore, that this Bill sponsored by George Hawkins is an important step towards taking some responsibility for the harm that has resulted from alcohol consumption.

But I want to make one point clear.

It’s not just the prerogative of the Parliament to make a stand.

I think back to my own tipuna, Niniwa i Te Rangi, a woman who led Te Komiti Wahine-a-Hine-ahu-one, an organisation which aimed to get rid of alcohol in Maori pa.

Niniwa was the eldest surviving daughter of Heremaia Tamaihotua, also known as Ngapuruki, the leading chief of Ngati Hikawera of Ngati Kahungunu.

Her abilities as a speaker, her knowledge of genealogy and tradition, her force of character and forthright outspokenness, gave her a particular status.

And so when she spoke out against alcohol use at Papawai Marae, which is the political centre which would host the Maori parliaments of the Kotahitanga movement, she made quite an impact.

Other tribes will have also had an impact with their waiata, moteatea, and various strategies that they have instituted to address alcohol related harm; and it is very common today, amongst various kapa haka groups.

Earlier today, for instance, my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell, mentioned the impact made by Bishop Bennett in Rotorua advocating against the damaging effects of alcohol abuse on Maori.

This Bill is an important way to put barriers in place to address the impact of alcohol upon communities.

But no matter how honourable the intention, we must all, as communities, also seek to challenge the way in which the sale of liquor has taken such an adverse toll on our people.

And when we can intervene at a community level to correct; when we can challenge without anger, hatred or fear behaviour which is harmful and destructive; we will truly be on the pathway towards solutions which will make a difference.

I am reminded of the Maori word hoariri which is often translated as "enemy" but which in fact means "the friend with whom I am angry".

And I must confess to occasionally having ‘friends’ whom I have been angry with - especially those associated with the passing of the Foreshore and Seabed Legislation.

But perhaps what we all need to consider more deeply, is how we support our hoariri, those who are under the influence, who are adversely affected by the availability of alcohol.

We can all learn from the example of Niniwa i Te Rangi in standing up and challenging her peers to address the impact of alcohol use.

We will support this Bill in that it will enable any person or party to stand up, to object to an application, and to raise their concerns about the social impacts on their community if an on-licence or off-licence is granted.

But we also advocate that we all take far greater responsibility for taking up the role of hoariri, in reminding those who partake of the disproportionate amount of harm that continues to flow from increasing alcohol consumption and disturbing patterns of behaviour.


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