Kiwi booze culture: Changes are needed

Last updated 12:00 28/01/2013
Fairfax NZ

YOUTH DRINKING: Booze seems to be the focus of many teenagers' weekend.

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One only has to travel to see the New Zealand culture of drinking needs a shake up.

I surprised myself how shocked I felt to travel in Florida, USA in 2009 and see the places that alcohol was made freely available. Not only the availability but how people could enjoy a drink without abusing the system. We visited Seaworld and watched open-mouthed as staff wandered around selling large glasses of beer to the patrons. I immediately thought if this was New Zealand this couldn't and wouldn't happen. People would be over-indulging in no time and the consequence would be beer poured in to the dolphin tanks and drunken youths trying to climb in with the whales!

For the first time in a long time my partner and I decided to go to a local pub and enjoy a band playing last month. By about 11.30pm, despite the music being great, we opted to leave as we were constantly harassed by drunken young women lolling over us imploring us slurringly to 'get up an dancesh, ish really fun'. We were enjoying a quiet drink, however, the aim of the evening was to enjoy the music and eventually we gave up!

The issue is that the NZ culture is not only 'we must drink', but 'we must drink to excess in order to have a good time'. I believe the answer lies in the individual supported by society. Let's promote having a good time without getting drunk, or at times without drinking at all.

When my daughter reached 16 I was saddened to see so many of her friends having a party that involved mum and dad stocking up the liquor cabinet to excess. Why aren't parents suggesting their children have fun that doesn't centre around alcohol? It is possible! Eventually my daughter started gravitating towards a 'Youth Group' run by a local church. My family is not religious at all but she enjoys having fun with a group of peers that doesn't involve drunken parties. Similarly, we enjoy a few drinks at home, a beer on a hot afternoon, a glass of wine with a meal, but our drinking is never a focus and we don't enjoy nor aim to get drunk.

I believe there are plenty more kids around just like my daughter who actually aren't that interested in trashing themselves every weekend and they should be supported and provided with opportunities such as Youth Groups. Parents should be suggesting and encouraging their children have fun with minimal or no alcohol. Adults should be setting an example by showing kids how to have a good time where music, friends, family, games, outings are the focus, not alcohol. It doesn't mean you can't drink, it just means alcohol should be pushed back in to perspective.

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