Effort to cut teen drinking

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The Wanaka Alcohol Group (WAG) has employed a public health educator to help reduce teen drinking in the town.

Educator Bronwyn Coers said a survey of year 9 to year 11 students at Mount Aspiring College (MAC) in 2015 found that about one in four drunk alcohol.

“Of that group about 75% were regular drinkers.”

More concerning figures from the survey reported 12% of young people having sexual contact that they had regretted while under the influence of alcohol, 10 % saying they had done things they could get into trouble for and 18% reporting a physical injury sustained while drinking, she said.

The main source for alcohol in this age group was from parents.

To help change the culture around teen drinking WAG was adopting a local version of the Iceland Model which had been greatly successful in reducing teen alcohol and drug consumption in that country.

The initiatives centred around providing alcohol-free alternatives for young people, she said. It also focused on strengthening family ties and increasing self regard.

“WAG wants to develop a culture where it’s not seen as OK to provide alcohol to under-18-year-olds,” she said.

Initiatives supported by WAG include a Blue Moon Dance for years 10 and 11 this Saturday, a sport and recreations event on September 23, and information evenings for parents at MAC. The group was also placing information on the MAC website about alcohol harm and the effects of alcohol on young brains.

“We want youth to be involved in positive leisure experiences,” she said.

The survey would be repeated next year with the same students, she said.

WAG is a local collaborative of concerned organisations including Wanaka Community Networks, Wanaka Community Board, MAC, Queenstown Lakes District Council, ACC, Friends of Mount Aspiring College, Parenting for Life, police, Alpine Community Trust, Southern District Health Board, Public Health South and Kahu Youth.