Award winning leader helping us tackle alcohol harm

David Ratu

Latest News 18 July 2019 | Maaori Warden David Ratū (Ngaati Te Ata Waiohua, Waikato, Ngaati Maniapoto), a member of the Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) Alcohol Harm Advisory Group has recently won the Minister of Health’s Health Volunteer of the Year Award for his dedication and relentless work in reducing the harm alcohol causes in our communities, particularly for Maaori. 

“We are hugely appreciative of the mahi that David does for our communities. David has seen the damage alcohol causes our people first-hand and has dedicated most of his life to this cause. We are very lucky to tap into his invaluable knowledge to help inform the work of our CM Health Alcohol Harm Advisory Group”, says Dr Doone Winnard, Clinical Director Population Health.

Hazardous alcohol use and alcohol-related harm cause large health, social, and economic burdens in Counties Manukau and is an inequitable burden of harm on Maaori, male, youth and socio-economically deprived populations. CM Health has an active role in preventing and reducing hazardous alcohol use and has partnered with local community leaders to develop strategies to tackle this issue. 

“The collective that has been established at CM Health has brought together people who have a genuine concern and want to see change. As a result of this collective effort and sheer determination, for the first time alcohol harm is being acknowledged as an issue and brought to the forefront, and I am adding support to what has been created”, says David.

Besides being a Maaori Warden for over 30 years, David Ratū works with harm reduction agencies to ensure that the Treaty of Waitangi is embedded in their practices and values, and has an active role in ensuring Maaori interests are represented in alcohol licensing decisions. David advocates for the increase of the price of alcohol, reducing availability and restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

“CM health has been referred to in a district licensing hearing; this never happened before. Now we can rely on good robust evidence from the DHB to present to the commissioners who make decisions on the issuing on licensing - it provides a snapshot of harm in real time. Before, the statistics presented were anecdotal.”

David has also filed a claim before the Waitangi Tribunal for an urgent hearing on behalf of all Maaori suffering disproportionately from the negative impacts from the sale and supply of alcohol. “I grew up in a community where the consumption of alcohol was huge; as I got older it got worse. Alcohol leads to spousal abuse, imprisonment, death by accidents, unemployment”.

“Until Maaori have a greater say about what will happen in their community about alcohol, nothing will change. Maaori have to be able to participate in the process, we have to be consulted on anything related to alcohol and the Crown needs to give responsibility back to Maaori”.  

About winning the award, David says that “it is an acknowledgement of those who have joined me on this hikoi. I dedicate it to our tuupuna, who fought this battle way back, and those of our whaanau who have suffered, and who continue to suffer the harm of alcohol”.

For information on Dry July activities happening in CM Health and the work of the Alcohol Harm Minimisation team contact ahm@middlemore.co.nz

Did you know that in Middlemore Hospital’s Emergency Department:

  • On average 340 people per month are seen with alcohol-related presentations
  • 47% of all alcohol presentations occur on Saturday and Sunday
  • 1 in 5 cases where alcohol is involved results in hospital admission