Alcohol educator over the limit again

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014

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The manager of a Wairarapa Maori health service specialising in drug and alcohol programmes has been convicted of drink-driving for the fifth time.

Taiawhio Tame Gemmell manages Masterton-based Te Hauora Runanga O Wairarapa, which is funded by the Wairarapa District Health Board and lists drug and alcohol counselling and education programmes among its core services.

On Thursday he appeared in Masterton District Court for sentencing on his fifth drink-driving charge.

The charge sheet said Gemmell, 46, of Masterton, was tested at a roadside stop in Ponatahi Rd near Martinborough on November 17, and was found to have 876 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. The legal limit is 400mcg.

Gemmell's supervisor at the health service said yesterday the conviction was "a blow" to the organisation, but she supported him and hoped he would not resign, or be forced to.

"If I had a problem with the way he worked, that would be different. But he's a good manager," runanga board chairwoman Angie Pourau said.

She knew Gemmell had four previous convictions for drink-driving when he was hired, but his alcohol problem was no barrier, as he was not directly involved with drug and alcohol counselling.

He was "trying hard" to deal with his problem.

"Nobody's perfect, and when you look at our client base it's those who really need our help. I honestly believe Maoridom will support him because he's an excellent manager."

She said Gemmell had come to see her the day after he was charged and offered to resign. She did not accept his offer, because "of the work he does . . . there's not many people around that are qualified like that".

Ms Pourau will meet her board on Monday to discuss the situation.

Judge John Bergseng sentenced Gemmell to four months' community detention with a 9pm-7am curfew, and disqualified him from driving for 18 months, after which he will be allowed to drive only with a zero-alcohol licence. He was banned from owning a vehicle for one year.

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- The Dominion Post

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