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Time for informed debate on reducing alcohol harm

MEDIA RELEASE: 25 March 2009

Time for informed debate on strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm say Brewers

Brewers from New Zealand and Australia are keen to work alongside decision makers and industry groups to develop the most effective mix of strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Brian Blake, Brewers Association Chairman, says the brewers have a vested interest to stand up as part of the solution and start to tackle some of the issues usually left in the ‘too hard’ basket.

“The reality is that there are a relatively small percentage of people in our society who abuse alcohol to mask other problems. They do not represent the responsible majority who use our products sensibly and enjoyably but the trends are worrying and many resources and lives are being wasted while the debate in both our countries continues.”

At a function in Wellington following the first meeting of the Board of Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand in New Zealand, Mr Blake said that governments in both countries were in the throes of alcohol-related reviews and legislative reforms.

“Never before has there been such a need to look to the future rather than continuing to debate issues at the margins of largely settled policies.

“It’s time to front problems such as brief interventions for recidivist drunk drivers, irresponsible licencees and rather than focus on policies such as alcohol advertising, where self-regulation is working well in New Zealand as is The ABAC scheme in Australia.

“Equally, it’s time to balance the social policy alongside economic policy and openly debate strategies that will minimize alcohol-related harm without imposing undue costs or barriers on either the industry or on those agencies responsible for enforcing regulation.”

Mr Blake, who is also Managing Director of DB Breweries, said the industry was operating in unprecedented times and more than ever, successful alcohol policy would depend on a balance between often-competing needs of trade, employment, health, revenue, justice, as well as differing views of interest groups.

“ Things go awry when any one interest seeks to dominate others. We will therefore be looking to a coordinated, cross-government approach to provide balance and moderate between the sometimes differing aims of policy and as a result to minimize unintended consequences.”

In his closing remarks Mr Blake said “We have been in business for a long time and I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that we want to be able to stand tall knowing we have contributed to sound, evidence-based solutions that will protect and enhance the lives of future generations.”

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