Commissioned by the Accident Compensation Corporation on behalf of the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board (PNSAB) the study identified groups that pre-load; explores the relationship between pre-loading and alcohol related harm; identifies the patterns of behaviour associated with pre-loading, especially moving from an unlicensed premise to a licensed one, and associated harm; And, potential points of intervention for reducing alcohol-related harm due to pre-loading.
Palmerston North Mayor, Jono Naylor, says the study is indicative of any city in New Zealand. It highlights a number of societal issues that are exacerbated by pre-loading.
"The Safety Advisory Board is already adopting initiatives based on the study's findings. The SAB is now sharing its findings with agencies across New Zealand so they can make responsible drinking initiatives and campaigns more effective."
Mayor Naylor says the study should be tempered by the fact that it was carried out at the height of the effects of the Global Financial Crisis on the city. "Since then, unemployment numbers have fallen in the city while the overall population has increased."
PNSAB chair and Police Area Commander, Inspector Patrick Handcock says not surprisingly most people associate drinking with a good time and catching up with friends, however a small proportion associate it with violence.
It should be of concern to all that half of all participants and 42% of pre-loaders had had a negative experience while in town. Whether that be doing something they later regretted (36%); 'partner / relationship negatively affected (30%); and, 'injurying or hurting themselves or someone else' (24%).
The problems occur very late at night after the pre-loaders arrive in town in the early hours of the morning. Police are patrolling the central city on foot and with vehicles during this period however the sheer volume of drunk people means we can't be everywhere at once.
"It's time for a public debate on opening hours and hopefully that will happen now that the Palmerston North Liquor Advisory Board has been established."
MidCentral District Health Board Operations Director, Nicholas Glubb says the findings that 24% of those surveyed injure or hurt themselves or someone else (24%) is concerning.These cases add a burden to the health sector and our general practice teams, accident and medical centres and emergency department.
"Alcohol abuse is a community issue which we all need to face up to and discuss what we can do about it, both individually and collectively to minimise harm to young people in our community".
Inspector Pat Handcock says as a result of the study the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board will be better able to target campaigns at those most susceptible and use mediums and messages that carry mana for those in the targeted age group.
"It has already influenced the introduction of a PNSAB initiative called Project Vanguard which aims to reduce alcohol related harm and victimisation to young women aged 16 - 24 years caused by excess alcohol consumption.
"Part of the programme includes a Safe City Angel who works with Police and SafeCity Hosts to make young women aware of the real harm intoxication can bring, as well as how to stay safe in the city while out on Friday and Saturday nights," says Inspector Handcock.