Booze abuse again tops lockdown callouts

By Will Trafford

Northland Iwi Te Hiku is calling out Far North District Council for policy changes which it says saw off-license outlets delivering Alcohol during lockdown.

Data from domestic abuse callouts in the Far North during lockdown have revealed alcohol as the leading contributor to police involvement.

Police confirmed to Te Ao Māori news it is a trend not limited to the north, with issues extending across the motu.

Te Hiku which runs a family violence prevention programme in partnership with Police says there were 62 incidents of whānau harm reported through 111 between 18 to 31 August.

Of the 62 incidents, almost a third (18) were triggered by harmful alcohol consumption. Eight events were classified as ‘high risk’ by frontline police attending the incident.

High risk events constitute threats of serious physical injury or death, sexual violence, weapons involvement and people wanted for arrest.

Twenty-four locations in Te Hiku hold current off-licences issued by the Far North District Council. Of those, three are selling alcohol online using contactless delivery. Eight others are selling alcohol as part of their usual grocery trade.

Te Hiku Iwi Development CEO Carol Berghan says, “The fact that the sale of alcohol remotely is permitted by the Far North District Council without restrictions is hugely concerning to our iwi. What we are now seeing as a result are unacceptable and preventable reports of family violence.”

Alcohol Prevention Harm Officer Constable Rasau Kalivati says the sale of alcohol has not been restricted as much this lockdown as compared to last lockdown.

"We know alcohol is a factor that exacerbates family harm. Alert level restrictions can add pressure to families, which in turn can prompt people to drink more alcohol and potentially hurt those close to them. Police are here to help, no matter the alert level. If you are in danger or fear for your safety, dial 111,” he says.

Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi says social drinking during periods of lockdown changes drastically due to the restrictions to personal movement.

“It’s an uncertain time. There are so many conspiracy theories and so much misinformation out there, and the fact is that the use of alcohol is predictable because it’s the path of least resistance. I think people are probably thinking it’s a bit of a holiday, and what do you do on a Friday or Saturday? It’s a similar sort of thing, but it only brings further pressure and financial burdens,” he says.

“To have the mana to be able to say ‘no’? There’s mana right there. That in itself is the sort of thing that Māori men in particular need to have in our lives, otherwise we don’t feel fulfilled. Kua nawhe. That’s enough,” he says.

Speaking to Te Ao Māori news Police Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha repeated calls from ministers that those in danger should seek support and leave situations where they are unsafe, regardless of covid-19 alert levels.

“We don't want to see people in that situation, obviously, so we're doing as much as we can. Government agencies across the board are meeting every day to share information around these very issues… If people are feeling unsafe in their home and being subjected to domestic violence or family harm… leave the home and seek support,” he said.