A series of focus groups and key informant interviews, accompanied by a brief survey, were used to examine community members' concerns about alcohol misuse within New Plymouth district. Five focus groups incorporating 30 individuals and six key informant interviews were undertaken with representatives of residents, the business and hospitality sector, and key community and regulatory agencies. Participants were asked to consider the key alcohol issues facing New Plymouth at the current time, and to prioritise these. They were also asked to identify and consider potential solutions to these problems, and to prioritise these across the immediate, intermediate and longer term.
There was a high level of overlap and consensus in the issues and solutions identified by those who participated in the focus groups, and consultation interviews. Generally, those consulted considered that New Plymouth District experienced a small group of readily identifiable alcohol issues, particularly alcohol related violence, and drinking in public places. Concern related to young people experiencing alcohol related harms was unanimous across groups. Young people were seen as particularly vulnerable, and there was strong agreement across groups that the illegal and irresponsible supply of alcohol to young people should be minimised. Most participants also considered that alcohol related harm in the New Plymouth district has worsened over the previous three years (see Figure 5).
There was also strong agreement across focus group participants that as a community, New Plymouth was well placed to address alcohol related issues. Participants described a strong sense of community collaboration, and willingness of many agencies and individuals to be involved to support community action. Relationships between the Council, other agencies and the business and hospitality sectors were seen to be positive, and this provided a supportive framework for future activities.
The concerns about alcohol misuse are reinforced through the licenced premises customer survey undertaken by the New Plymouth District Council Licensing and Enforcement team in 2008. Approximately 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that drunken people can be a problem (Q.9) and felt that such persons should not be allowed into bars (Q.10). When asked (Q.11) about whether people felt safe when out drinking 40% did not feel safe, and gave the following comments:
Focus group participants identified alcohol-related violence as the most important current concern for the Council to address, followed by concerns relating to the connection between alcohol and crime, social harms, young people's drinking and drinking in public places (see Figure 2).
There was agreement among all focus group members that the central business district (CBD) was a high-risk area for alcohol-related crime and violence, particularly after midnight. Many people considered that the use of CCTV cameras was considered a useful tool to enhance perceptions of safety in this area, particularly when combined with a visible Police presence. Many participants described the harms associated with alcohol misuse in the CBD, including increased fear of crime and assault. In addition, business representatives described the need to the need to clean up alcohol related litter and damage to the environment around the CBD.
The majority of focus group members expressed concerns about the extent of alcohol related rubbish, particularly glass, which is evident in the community. Participants who lived on the perimeters of liquor ban areas described regularly needing to remove glass bottles and cans from their gardens, as well as being exposed to excess noise levels at night when young adults were walking in and out of the CBD. Broken glass from alcohol containers was considered a high-risk hazard for the community in general, particularly children and others who walked or bicycled.
Many focus group participants expressed concerns about drinking in public places, particularly in high visibility areas such as public parks, walkways and beaches. Public place drinking was associated with increased fear of alcohol related harms such as assault and intimidation, particularly for vulnerable community members, such as older adults and young people. Many participants considered that the existing bans were considered a useful tool to address public place drinking. Some participants requested increased numbers of liquor bans, as well as increased hours in specific bans. However, other participants expressed concerns that liquor bans could displace vulnerable people to community spaces, which were harder to supervise.
All focus group participants considered that young people were considered to be at increased risk of alcohol related harm, and young people's misuse of alcohol was considered indicative of community norms around alcohol use and abuse. High levels of concern were expressed about the illegal and irresponsible sale and supply of alcohol to young people, particularly from friends and family members. Young people were also seen to be at risk of alcohol related harms due to the environments that they consumed alcohol in, including beaches and parks, which were considered public places that were out of public view. This decreased opportunities for surveillance by community members and agencies such as the Police, and increased the risk of intoxication-related harms.
Some concerns were expressed about the advertising and promotion of alcohol, particularly to young people. While the majority of focus group members considered that most licencees were responsible with advertising and promotion of alcohol, some promotions were considered to be specifically targeting young drinkers, including those under 18 years. Focus group members identified a number of potential interventions for the Council and its partner agencies, including working closely with licencees to monitor promotions. Return to top
Focus group participants were asked to consider identified priorities for Council and other agencies to reduce alcohol related harms in the near future. Reducing the effects of alcohol on violence, particularly family violence and violence in public places was the leading concern among the majority of participants.
Community members also prioritised the importance of changing community norms around alcohol, and addressing the binge drinking and intoxication culture that is evident in New Plymouth as in the rest of New Zealand. Reflecting the current national campaign focusing on reducing intoxication, many focus group participants considered that it was necessary for adults to change their drinking behaviours and reduce binge drinking. However, other participants also considered that it was necessary to focus on reducing binge drinking among young people, in addition to adults. Specifically, the Council was encouraged to work with the community and schools to change community members acceptance of intoxication and binge drinking.
Many focus group members were aware of interventions to reduce the illegal and irresponsible supply of alcohol to young people, and strong support was given to continuing interventions such as CPOs and campaigns such as the Think Before You Buy Under 18s drink alcohol. The Council was encouraged to work with a range of agencies to change community attitudes about supplying alcohol to young people, and to encourage increased responsibility. Many participants considered that the Council had a role in supporting community events for young people and the community in general that are alcohol free, or where alcohol was appropriately managed.
The Council was encouraged to work with Police and other agencies to improve perceptions of community safety, by supporting increased Police presence on weekends and investing in increased numbers of CCTV cameras. Many participants considered that an increased police presence resulted in increased perceptions of community safety.
Reducing drinking in public places, particularly in and around major thoroughfares, was also considered a priority issue for action in the near future. At the time of data collection, the issue of public place drinking had received prominence in the local media. Most participants considered that liquor bans were a useful tool to reduce public place drinking and intoxication. All participants also considered that the NPDC had a positive relationship with the Police, which was seen as necessary to address public place drinking. Some focus group participants considered that more liquor bans were necessary to reduce public place drinking, and encouraged consideration of a 24-7 liquor ban across the CBD. However, other participants considered that changing the social norms around binge drinking and intoxication would alleviate the need for further liquor bans.
Reducing drinking in public places and reducing binge drinking was also seen to support action to reduce the amount of broken glass and other alcohol related litter in the environment. The majority of participants agreed that this would take a community response, and would require a variety of strategies to result in change.
The Council was encouraged to take a leadership role in addressing alcohol issues. Many participants emphasised the importance of 'walking the talk', and ensuring that the Council had appropriate internal alcohol related policies and practices before working externally with the community. Examples of this included appropriately managing Council events and leases for assets such as Council halls and other buildings, to ensure that the potential for alcohol related harms was minimised.
Participating community members were also asked to identify what they considered should be prioritised to reduce alcohol related harm in the longer term. The Council was encouraged to demonstrate effective leadership in reducing alcohol related harms, by working in collaboration with key local agencies in positive and strategic ways. Focus group participants agreed that there was currently a high level of collaboration between agencies and community groups to reduce alcohol related harms, and that it was important that this continued and was sustained.
A key focus for longer term action was to develop a range of behaviour change and education initiatives to support changing the drinking culture in New Plymouth, to reduce binge drinking and intoxication. Changing the drinking culture was also seen as a priority to reduce the risk of alcohol related harms to all community members, but particularly to young people.
In parallel with changing social norms, an increased focus on high standards for licencees was prioritised, and increased enforcement with increased penalties for breaches of licence conditions was supported. Some focus group participants encouraged harsher penalties for licencees who breached the conditions of their liquor licence, particularly if they sold alcohol to minors. Finally, a sustained focus on increasing public safety and reducing all forms of alcohol related violence was strongly supported.
41 New Plymouth District Council Licenced Premises Survey, 2008, preliminary resultsReturn to top