Sobering reminder

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 23/11/2012
Beer alcohol
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax Media
SOBERING: It is estimated that the deaths of 600 to 1000 New Zealanders each year are related to alcohol.

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It is estimated that the deaths of 600 to 1000 New Zealanders each year are related to alcohol.

In a sobering reminder that behind those statistics are people with friends and family, two coroners yesterday released their findings into the deaths of two such Kiwis.

Joshua Leigh Taunoa, 26, and William Hono Paki, 56, lived 600km apart and almost certainly never met. But the way they died was tragic and similar - they literally drank themselves to death.

Both men were found dead by family members after a night of heavy drinking.

Mr Taunoa lived in Sanson and was drinking with family members in Feilding before his death. After a family dinner he played drinking games with some of his whanau before, already well imbibed, he told them he should win a pool table if he could drink a bottle of vodka.

He drank half the bottle before someone stopped him and he was helped to bed on the same table. He never woke up.

Mr Paki was drinking with family in Pukekohe on December 30, mixing wine, beer and spirits, before he went to sleep in the back of his car.

Soon after 1am, his partner went to check on him and found he was dead.

Both men had blood alcohol levels around four times the legal limit for driving.

Having read both coroners' reports it is impossible not to call these deaths absolutely avoidable and immensely tragic.

In recent weeks, Parliament has been debating a bill that could reform alcohol laws in this country. What is likely to pass is a watered-down version of the original legislation that MPs on the left and, more importantly, those who are on the front line of alcohol-related harm say will do little to nothing to change things.

It's not too late for National and its coalition partners to make moves to strengthen the bill, or do we need to wait for more cases such as the two reported yesterday?

For if nothing happens then more Kiwis will die.

In light of Wednesday's eruption, vulcanologists are predicting further activity from Mt Tongariro and its neighbour Mt Ruapehu.

This has led Palmerston North Boys' High to cancel activities on the two mountains during year 10 camps in the area next week.

The camps will still go ahead albeit with altered programmes in what seems a wise and pragmatic decision that puts student safety first.

Abandoning the camps all together would have been an overreaction.

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- Manawatu Standard

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