Drunk boy in Hamilton 'symptom of booze culture'
The mother of a nine-year-old boy who got drunk at a Hamilton skate park wants the adults who provided the alcohol to be charged.
She said the ordeal of having her son's drunken experience broadcast online and in the media had been ''horrible'' and ''ugly''.
A video posted online showed her son with a can of bourbon and cola struggling to stand, being abusive and slurring his words at Fairfield Skate Park in Hamilton on Tuesday - his ninth birthday.
It has been viewed more than 700,000 times and published on dozens of websites around the world.
The boy's mother, whom Fairfax Media has chosen not to name, said the nasty comments online from ''people thinking they know the situation when they don't'' had been hurtful.
"People act like it happens all the time in my family. This is like a situation that was a random thing," she said.
''People are just going to judge anyway. Why do I have to justify myself? And the people who are judging are the people who don't know me, or think they know me."
Police interviewed several people in relation to the incident yesterday, but no charges have been laid.
BOOZE CULTURE SYMPTOM
A top alcohol counsellor has warned the case is a symptom of New Zealand's shocking drinking culture.
The incident has blown the lid off the issue of alcohol abuse involving children, Alcohol and Drug Assessment and Counselling clinical manager Roger Brooking said.
He called it a symptom of New Zealand's shocking booze culture and lax liquor laws, he said.
"This incident ... is to be expected in a society where alcohol is so cheap and so readily available," he said. It was a "wake up call for New Zealand, but unfortunately it seems our politicians are asleep at the wheel."
He said a high number of his clients started drinking alcohol before the age of 12 and if it wasn't for video footage of Tuesday's incident going viral, the issue would not be a topic of discussion.
"That kind of thing is not unusual, it mostly happens in the privacy of people's homes."
The original video was removed from YouTube about 2pm yesterday for violating the website's terms of service.
However, it has been duplicated and published on dozens of other websites. It also appears on the website of British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail.
The video's creator, Bradley Goudie, 18, said he posted the video "for the greater good" and felt it had served its purpose by sparking a public discussion.
"My overall intention was to alert the country to this issue and it's done that so I believe my part in this is done."
He said he knew "for a fact" that the issue of young children drinking was widespread.
Goudie said he had seen children, aged 8 to 13, getting drunk "off their faces" at Fairfield Park and in the city on several occasions.
However, Hamilton Police Acting Inspector Kent Holdsworth said it was an extreme case and "a rarity" in his 23 years of policing.
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker is likely to ask her council to think about extending the city's liquor ban, after viewing the video this week.
"There have been a number of issues related to alcohol behaviour, along with synthetic cannabis and certainly there is some interest in exploring changes to the liquor ban. As you know we are currently in consultation over our local area alcohol policy and working on our draft policy to deal with synthetics [legal highs], and this will be part of those discussions."
Hamilton-based Labour list MP Sue Moroney and Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta yesterday said they would be meeting with police to ensure the adults who provided the alcohol were held accountable.
Police yesterday defended a claim they didn't act fast enough when Goudie reported the incident on Tuesday.
Holdsworth said the 111 call was placed at 5.59pm and an officer's note book entry had her speaking to people at Fairfield park at 6.10pm.
The boy's father said it was upsetting seeing his son broadcast around the world, but he felt the issue of underage drinking needed to be discussed publicly. He said his son's mother was "a good mum".
MANY WAYS BOOZE CAN HARM KIDS
Alcohol has a definite destructive effect on children's social and emotional development, a Waikato Hospital pediatrician says.
Eleanor Carmichael has seen first-hand the impact that booze can have on growing bodies. She reckons that if parents and politicians knew just how many ways it could harm youngsters, they would take more stringent steps to keep them away from it.
Speaking after the video emerged, Dr Carmichael told Fairfax Media there was much cause for concern.
"It really depends if this was a one-off or if it was the latest incident in an ongoing series of alcohol abuse.
"In terms of short-term issues for children of that age, it would tend to wipe out blood sugars, which could put them at risk of brain seizures.
"Also, getting drunk like that raises risks of the blocking-off of airways, which could lead to hypotoxic brain damage. The risk of that in adults is related to body weight and, of course, small children have much less weight to help them absorb alcohol.
"In the longer term it comes down to how much the child is going to be drinking. Alcohol contains neurotoxins, which effectively cause the brain cells to commit suicide . . . When your brain is still developing, particularly the frontal lobes, the risk can be enormous."
It was similar to the risks faced in cannabis use by people under 20, Dr Carmichael said.
"If your frontal lobes are damaged, as they can be by recurrent drug-taking, then that can cause a lot of damage, and hinder crucial developmental steps in areas such as impulse control - it stops you from learning how to control yourself, how to stop yourself from doing things. Early use of those drugs paralyses that part of your development and puts you at risk of not being able to form adult relationships, or getting to grips with being a parent.
"And all that's without going into what continued, chronic use of alcohol can do to your liver or your heart."
Dr Carmichael said she was "still bitter" over the lowering of the legal drinking age to 18, which had manifested itself in many more people in their early teens getting drunk and getting themselves into various forms of trouble.