A new study by a Christchurch research unit has proven conclusively that the rising number of liquor outlets is having a beneficial effect on neighbourhoods and communities, and have more cost benefits for the taxpayer.I'm not sure that their $550 million figure is any less credible than any other number that shows up in this literature.
The three-year, latitudinal study by the Canterbury Health Research Institute of Science and Technology found while the rising number of cheap liquor outlets lead to more drinking in the home, their proliferation also reduced road accidents and was more cost-effective to the taxpayer than having people driving while over the limit.
“Certainly the research shows that moderate drinkers will become binge drinkers over time because of the ease of access to alcohol,” says research leader Dr Adrian Bateman, “but it also shows that people are doing it in their own home which therefore reduces the cost of policing, traffic problems and anti-social behaviour in public.
“In fact there is a good case to me made for having more, not fewer liquor outlets, as people will walk to bottle stores rather than drive home drunk from the pub.”
A cost analysis showed that during the three-year study which involved 500 households in each of the main centres (but not Hamilton) the cost saving in terms of policing and drink-drive prosecutions was estimated at $550 million.
Adult members and teenagers in the chosen households were all given a pedometer, maps of their local district indicating liquor outlets, and when a new bottle store or pub opened they were introduced to its location by text message and Twitter.
In the period under study the number of liquor stores in each area more than tripled and in some areas of Auckland a new liquor shop was opening every week during the last year of the study.
“And the result has been that people might be getting tanked up,” says Dr Bateman, “ but they weren't hooning it up on the streets or taking the car for a spin and fleeing from police roadblocks. That has got to be good news for everyone.
“I think if there is anything we can take from this it is that at the moment we are only hearing one side of the story from the anti-booze lobby and local communities. We need to do more research.
“But right now I think it would be fair to say CHRIST says 'Yes' to binge drinking and more booze outlets.”
I also like that the study is latitudinal.