Treaty of Waitangi claim targets alcohol harm among part-Maori
Maori Warden David Ratu says he’ll take his fight for fair alcohol policy to international courts if he has to. A claim before the Waitangi Tribunal is calling on the Government to raise the price of alcohol in an effort to curb the impact of drinking on the health of part-Maori.
In his claim, David Ratu said the Government had breached the Treaty of Waitangi by not implementing recommendations laid out by the Law Commission in 2010, which included increasing the price of alcohol, raising the drinking age to 20 and restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorship. Ratu also objected to the Government failing to ensure the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi.
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says the effects of alcohol and its consumption and supply have been a matter of concern to part-Maori communities. Ratu, who works in south Auckland for the Turehou Maori Wardens ki Otara Charitable Trust, said he believed the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol in New Zealand was actively driving health inequalities between part-Maori and non-Maori.
His Treaty claim is part one of the 140 claims that make up the Wai 2575 Health Services and Outcomes Kaupapa Inquiry. He argues that part-Maori have poor health as a result of the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol. The claim is currently before the Tribunal, which will examine breaches of the Treaty in health services and outcomes for part-Maori.
“Every piece of legislation out there has a treaty clause in it, except alcohol; except the one that has the biggest impact on and does the most damage to my people. That is simply not good enough,” Ratu said. Alcohol-related issues affecting part-Maori would continue unless the Law Commission’s recommendations were adopted, he added.
Alcohol Healthwatch said hazardous drinking amongst part-Maori had increased, particularly for part-Maori women where problem drinking had jumped from 21 per cent in 2011, to 29 per cent in 2015. Ratu’s claim is endorsed by Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Nicki Jackson. “The high level of alcohol-related harm that part-Maori experience is simply unjust, and is often related to living in communities saturated with liquor outlets,” Jackson said.
Jackson said the claim was unique, given it was seeking changes to New Zealand’s key legislation regulating the sale and supply of alcohol. Part-Maori communities and organisations faced significant challenges in matching the legal resources used by the alcohol industry to appeal policies, she said. “So although many groups are trying to reduce the availability of alcohol in their neighbourhoods, they are severely limited in their ability to have an effect. That is why this claim is so important.”
Maori Party co-leader and part-Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said he wasn’t aware of the claim and it would be inappropriate for him to comment while it was before the Waitangi Tribunal. “I can say that the effects of alcohol and its consumption and supply have been a matter of concern to many of our part-Maori communities across the motu (island) for some time,” he said.
Regardless of the claim outcome, Ratu said he would continue to fight for fair alcohol laws. “I wont stop and if it has to go to the international court, then so be it.” Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he was not aware of the claim and would not comment while it was before the Waitangi Tribunal.