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Calls for less alcohol advertising: 'Why is it always a bakery, a liquor store and a dairy?'

Mary Afemata

Green MP and principal are concerned about advertising near low decile schools.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

South Auckland community leader and new MP Fa’anana Efeso Collins has slammed what he says is the abnormal level of exposure of children to alcohol advertising near schools.

He said the alcohol industry is luring young people towards abnormal behaviours towards alcohol, by using marketing tactics that are irresponsible and reckless.

The new Green Party MP said he and his daughters often walked to school from their home in Ōtāhuhu.

“We pass three alcohol stores, we pass four vaping stores and we’ve passed two pokie outlets. She’s looking at me [like]: ‘Is this normal’?

“Bright colours catch children’s eye and liquor stores are cleverly painted in bold colours like orange or lime. A lot of the marketing work looks at that psychology…how do I make it as attractive as possible?”

Such advertising is unacceptable and unfair to children, he said.

Green Party MP Fa'anana Efeso Collins says he and his daughters pass three liquor stores on their walk to school in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland. Photo / NZME

Fa’anana’s comments come after research on alcohol advertising near Auckland schools, published in the NZ Medical Journal, showed it is common and more prevalent in poorer communities.

Of the 52 schools sampled, 56 per cent had at least one alcohol advertisement within 500m. Low decile schools were affected the most, at 63 per cent.

However, the New Zealand Alcohol Beverage Council said the study is out-of-date and overstates the impact of advertising on drinking and that the study misrepresents what advertising is.

Executive director Virginia Nicholls said three-quarters of what the study calls advertising are legitimate restaurants, bars and bottle stores.

The Association of New Zealand Advertisers said there is no evidence that brand advertising targets vulnerable communities.

‘It’s always a bakery, a liquor store and a dairy’

Advertisers must ensure they comply with the code and the Advertising Standards Authority sets out that advertising must not appear within 300m of schools.

Growing up in Otara and now living in Ōtāhuhu with his own family, Fa’anana recognises the normality of alcohol advertising.

“I lived on Preston Road, which was only around the corner - and you’ve got a bakery. It’s always a bakery, a liquor store and a dairy.”

He says poor communities are high-stress communities: “There’s this message that alcohol can relieve you of your stress momentarily.”

Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, Rebecca Williams says it is deeply concerning that poorer communities appear to be targeted.

Willams says the evidence through surveys shows that a lot of Pasifika choose not to consume alcohol.

“For our young people to be targeted, it’s going against what a lot of the cultural and community expectations are.”

She said alcohol advertising where young people are walking or travelling to school, presented a high risk for encouraging young people to consume alcohol.

“It’s in their physical neighbourhoods. It’s in their electronic environments that they’re engaging in and we really need to stop it.”

Williams says there’s still a high level of drinking among young people that leads to lifelong impacts.

“It affects their ability to finish school and complete their education…risking being injured or harming others as a result of their drinking. It increases their risk of engaging with the law…it impacts their relationships with others.”

‘Would you go to Botany and see so many liquor stores’?

Rongomai School principlal Paeariki Mataroa-Johnson wants to less of alcohol advertising and liquor stores around their school in Otara, South Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

Rongomai School principal Paeariki Mataroa-Johnson only has to look to the next suburb to see the abnormality of alcohol advertisements in her community.

“Would you go to Botany and see so many liquor stores? Botany is...just right next door to us. I don’t think they have an alcohol store by every shop.”

She thinks about their school and the alcohol stores nearby. They are “definitely” noticeable in the immediate vicinity, she says.

“We’ve got the ones at Ferguson Road shops. That’s where a lot of our kids hang out.”

That block of shops is about 400m walking distance from the school.

“There’s at least two or three at Dawson Road shopping centre, which is another area that our school, our students or their families shop.

“Many of our families in the low decile communities are struggling financially or could be struggling with housing.

“Of course, we’re not a big fan of [alcohol]. That’s not what we want to advocate or promote to our tamariki and to our community. It’s just really sad.”

The research makes Mataroa-Johnson curious about what her pupils understand about alcohol advertising and wants to know what they think about it.

What she would like to see change for her school community is less alcohol advertising, fewer liquor stores and the promotion of something more positive for her pupils and the community.

Raising awareness similar to the Stop Smoking campaign, for example, she says.

“They have all these gruesome photos of the effects of what cigarette smoking can do.

Maybe they need to take the same leaf out of their book and start creating an awareness - the effects of high alcohol consumption.”

Hero image: Paeariki Mataroa-Johnson, the principal of Otara's Rongomai School, says alcohol advertising and stores were very visible around their primary school. Photo / Michael Craig

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