“For too long now, our Māori and PI (Pacific Island) communities bear the burden of problematic drinking and the subsequent harms.”

That’s the message from Hāpai Te Hauora chief executive officer Selah Hart after Waipā District Council’s ringing endorsement of a review of New Zealand’s alcohol laws.

“It sends a very strong message that alcohol law is long overdue for review, and communities need to have the right to veto liquor licences in their local neighbourhoods,” Hart said.

She said the decision also indicates that the government needs to support a commitment to review the SSAA (Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act).

MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s amendment of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill will abolish appeals on local alcohol policies in order to provide proper local control over alcohol regulation.

Hart says: “Addressing supply and accessibility of alcohol, coupled with more intensive Whānau Ora based solutions to help people fight their addiction is the solution.”

Waipā’s endorsement makes it the seventh council to support the review, joining Auckland, Christchurch, Whanganui, HamiltonPalmerston North and Hauraki.

Communities Against Alcohol Harm’s Dr Grant Hewison agreed, adding that Pasifika and Māori have “borne the brunt of a poorly regulated alcohol industry”.

“Communities Against Alcohol Harm welcomes the Waipā District Council, along with other Waikato councils, who are supporting the private member's bill to amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol 2012, to remove the special appeals process.

“The special appeals process has been a significant impediment to councils and their communities better regulating the sale and supply of alcohol in their areas because it has been used by supermarkets to maintain the status quo.”

Swarbrick’s bill also aims to reduce exposing young people to alcohol advertising, as well as the practice of alcohol companies sponsoring sports teams and venues.

Waipā District Councillor Roger Gordon acknowledged that there is a culture amongst youth of alcohol abuse but did not see the impact of alcohol related advertising in sport.

“I come from a family with a real history in sport… But in fact, I don’t see that there is an alcohol billboard around the side of the grounds, has affected any of my kids in either playing the sport or consuming the alcohol. I think alcohol is a social phenomenon.

“And yet the money that they pour into the support of all sports, enables more people to participate more readily in really what is a welcome activity throughout all ages.”

Meanwhile, Waipā District Deputy Mayor Liz Stolwyk supported the endorsement, identifying council’s role in advocating for the entire district.

“I absolutely agree with supporting this. When I look at our role in the community it’s always to look at the whole community and what’s in the best interests for all of the community members that we have, and I see this as really aligning with that.”

Stuff NZ: Support for alcohol law review shows it's 'long overdue', says Māori health advocate