I have lived in Marlborough for 24 years.
Leonie, my wife, and I chose the area to raise a family because of the perfect conditions.
Blenheim was close to paradise.
Not any more, because of the destructive effect of alcohol on our society.
Marlborough is not fun any more.
Here's some hard data on what's happening in the country, which I think is also the situation in Marlborough:
At least 25 per cent of New Zealand drinkers are heavy drinkers. (Wells et al 2006)
A third of all police apprehensions involve alcohol. (Stevenson 2009)
Half of serious violent crimes are related to alcohol. (Stevenson 2009)
60 different medical conditions are caused by heavy drinking. (O'Hagan et al 1993)
Up to 75 per cent of adult presentations at emergency departments on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are alcohol related. (Quigley personal correspondence)
More than 300 alcohol-related offences are reported every day. (Stevenson 2009)
Alcohol is involved in more than 500 serious and fatal injury traffic crashes every year. (Erasmus 2009)
At least 600 children are born each year with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. (May & Gossage 2001)
More than 1000 alcohol-related deaths in New Zealand every year. (Connor et al 2005)
17,000 years of life a year are lost through alcohol consumption. (Connor et al 2005)
Alcohol is a highly intoxicating drug which is fairly easy to overdose on. (Hilts 1994; Gable 2004; Sellman et al 2009)
Alcohol can cause brain damage. (Neiman 1998; Niccols 2007; Harper 2009)
Alcohol causes aggression. (Parrott & Zeichner 2002; Attwood et al 2009)
Alcohol is fattening in social drinkers. (Yeomans 2004; Nutristrategy 2005; Suter 2005)
Alcohol can cause cancer. (Corrao et al 2004; WHO 1998; WCRF 2007; Fillmore et al 2009)
Alcohol cardio-protection has been talked up. (Corrao et al 2000; Jackson et al 2005)
The alcohol industry actively markets alcohol to young people. (Jackson et al 2000)
The situation hit me when I read the Express on August 21, which had so many articles on offending caused in some way by alcohol - family violence, cruelty to animals, drink-drivers, drunken burglars, car accident, assault and threatening to kill officer, to name a few.
A returning Olympian was pictured showing his bronze medal to young people while wearing a T-shirt advertising alcohol, ignorant of the effect.
The change in values and norms has been slow but now picks up momentum.
In the Saturday Express on August 25, a woman who “is keen to help us” match food and wine holds her baby while enjoying a glass of wine, as can by seen on the photo.
The writer of the article finishes with: “Being a professional wine buff may sound idyllic but with two small children she certainly deserves a glass of wine at the end of the day. She just wants other people to get as much enjoyment out of it as she does”.
There are many other examples of how alcohol is pushed as such a big part of life in Marlborough.
St Marks alcohol addiction service raises money by selling donated cases of wine.
At a cancer education session I went to, the doctors present were drinking beer on stage.
A magazine covering Nelson and Marlborough presented a case of wine to Jamie Kidd's mum, who wrote a book about Jamie's rehabilitation after a traumatic brain injury caused by alcohol.
Wine tasting is offered before a women's triathlon and runners were given bottles of wine at the finish. Free wine tasting is offered as part of a half marathon.
Members of the council, lawyers and hospital staff are often holding a glass when they have their photos in the paper.
People at the Women of Influence conference were offered bubbles on arrival.
People climbing mountains, like Mt Fishtail, drink wine on the top.
Pubs are now called ale houses. Drinking is referred to as appreciation.
People wear T-shirts and caps advertising alcohol.
Speakers at a chronic pain seminar in Marlborough are given a bottle of wine.
I have written to many of the people involved in these events, but they do not see any problems. The standard reply is something along the lines of “red wine is good for your heart" or "drink in moderation”. Surely we can do better than that.
I am witnessing Marlborough's destruction before my eyes. My question to you: Do you have what it takes to stop moderation and be 100 per cent alcohol-free? We owe it at least to the beauty of our province.
Rene de Ruiter works as a physiotherapist in Blenheim and was a founding member of the Marlborough Multisport Club but resigned from the committee after 20 years when other members refused to back his bid to prohibit alcohol-sponsored events and stop accepting liquor industry gifts.
- The Marlborough Express