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Celebrations As Auckland Moves To Clean Up Alcohol Product Advertising

Communities across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland can celebrate, with new local rules kicking in to remove alcohol product advertising from the face of bottle stores. Plus, for the first time an application for two digital billboards in Māngere has been granted with a condition of no advertising permitted of alcohol brands, products, or companies which have the primary purpose of manufacturing or selling alcohol.

"These massive wins for communities will dramatically improve the face and feel of neighbourhoods and reduce the glamourisation and normalisation of alcohol. Young people and persons with alcohol use disorders will benefit the most, as will Māori, Pasifika and low income communities where alcohol outlets are unjustly concentrated," says Dr Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch.

The District Licensing Committee (DLC) practice note released last month states that bottle store licences moving forward will no longer be permitted to have exterior alcohol product advertising. Currently, bottle stores often stand out from other retail, with extensive window and wall advertising that can extend around the sides of the shop. The abundance of sandwich boards, flags, and bollard sleeves that spill out onto the footpath have given rise to communities describing their local bottle store as an ‘eyesore’ or ‘visual pollution’. Dr Grant Hewison from Communities Against Alcohol Harm says that concerns about alcohol advertising at local bottle stores are common complaints from communities objecting to bottle store licences.

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This move by the DLC follows extensive public calls for stronger action. Last year, Auckland Council carried out a specific public consultation on bottle store advertising, with a phenomenal response and calls for change from the community and health professionals, indicating widespread concern across the region.

The DLC practice note also builds upon similar Council actions to improve community wellbeing, such as in 2018 when Auckland Transport freed public transport from alcohol advertising.

"Kids see bottle store signage on their way to and from school. It’s a key site of alcohol product advertising. Reducing shop-front advertising of alcohol products is an important step towards addressing our pro-drinking environment and supporting New Zealanders to drink less and reap the vast benefits," says Dr Jackson.

"Now, we also have Auckland’s first billboard application approved with a condition that it will not show alcohol product advertising. The condition, proposed by the billboard applicant after hearing community concerns, will undoubtedly protect nearby schoolchildren and the wider Māngere community. I applaud the billboard applicant for voluntarily agreeing to the condition and call on others seeking billboard consent to do the same."

Research shows that concerns about alcohol advertising are warranted. Exposure has a causal link with youth drinking and alcohol product advertising can be a trigger for persons with alcohol use disorders, risking relapse.

"These changes have exciting implications for the future," says Dr Jackson. "If moving forward, exterior product advertising is minimised or cleared entirely, this could transform our environments. Imagine being able to walk or drive through your neighbourhood without being bombarded by alcohol billboards or ads on the footpath."

With Auckland neighbourhoods set to glow anew with these increased protections, it highlights how one change by a committee can result in numerous positive benefits for our communities, now and for future generations. Alcohol Healthwatch supports other DLCs and billboard applicants around the country taking similar action and/or the Minister of Justice utilising the upcoming alcohol law reforms to include legislative measures that empower Councils to control alcohol signs and advertising.

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