Survey reveals pre-loading rife

A never-before undertaken survey into Palmerston North's drinking habits has revealed young people spend on average more than $30 on their pre-town tipple.

The survey, on pre-loading of alcohol, canvassed 201 people aged 18-35 and a "control group" who did not pre-load. It was commissioned by ACC on behalf of the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board (PNSAB), and was done in March last year.

The study identified groups that pre-loaded, and their relationship to alcohol-related harm and associated behaviours, including moving from an unlicensed premises to licensed ones.

It also sought to find potential solutions to reduce alcohol-related harm caused by pre-loading.

Police area commander Inspector Pat Handcock, chairman of the PNSAB, said the outcome of the survey wasn't a surprise. "The extent of pre-loading has been pretty well known to emergency services for a very long time."

The survey found 69 per cent of respondents drank alcohol before a typical night out, particularly those in the 22 to 25-year-old age group at 83 per cent.

Liquor stores at 79 per cent, were the preferred place to purchase alcohol, with pre-loaders spending an average of $34 on spirits, RTDs and beer primarily.

Handcock said it was a concern that half of those surveyed and 42 per cent of pre-loaders had a negative experience in the city.

Thirty-six per cent said they did something they later regretted, 30 per cent reported a negative effect on their partner or relationship, and 24 per cent reported injuries to themselves or someone else.

The survey found problems occurred late at night after the pre-loaders arrived in the city, and in the early hours of the morning.

Police patrolled the central city on foot and with vehicles during that period, but the sheer volume of drunk people there meant officers were unable to be everywhere at once, Handcock said.

The survey results would be used to tailor new safety campaigns, and had already influenced current initiatives, including Project Vangard, which aims to reduce alcohol-related harm and victimisation to young women aged 16 to 24.

The safety advisory board would also "welcome" a review of the opening hours for both on-licence and off-licence businesses. He hoped this could happen now a Palmerston North Liquor Advisory Board had been established. He would not give an opinion on what the best opening hours would be, saying it was a "community issue" that they would have to consider.

Hospitality New Zealand regional manager Chris Hince said pre-loading was "one of the biggest bugbears of the hospitality industry". He believed the best way to reduce pre-loading was to limit the availability of discount alcohol, particularly at supermarkets.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said the study was indicative of "any city" in New Zealand and highlighted a number of societal issues that were exacerbated by pre-loading.

The PNSAB was now sharing its findings with agencies throughout New Zealand so they too could make responsible drinking initiatives and campaigns more effective, he said.

Manawatu Standard