Alcohol-fueled crashes cost New Zealanders $636,000 in lifetime ACC costs every day for the last five years on average new figures show.

The ACC data demonstrates the staggering cost of just one aspect of alcohol-related harm between 2016 and 2020.

The data was released after Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi stated his goal to review of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act within this parliamentary term, a move applauded by alcohol policy experts.

“In total $1.162 billion has been amassed in lifetime costs to ACC over the last five years,” The Helen Clark Foundation’s health equity fellow Matt Shand said. “Taken as an average over the five years and that is $232.5 million per year or about $636,000 every single day that will need to be paid over the lifetime of injuries occurred in the year.”

Auckland City topped the list for the highest lifetime costs due to alcohol-related crashes at $221m over five years with the Waikato District in second place with $124.7 million. Following behind are Christchurch ($80m), Whangārei ($59m), Wellington ($52m), Palmerston North ($40m) and the Far North District ($36m).

“The big takeaway is that alcohol consumption costs everyone regardless of whether we choose to drink or not,” Shand said.

These lifetime costs are calculated by identifying all car crashes where a police officer determined alcohol to be a factor and identifying ACC costs associated with these crashes across the expected lifetime of the claim.

These costs are paid for by ACC Motor Vehicle Account which is funded from a variety of means including vehicle registration and petrol tax.

Health Coalition Aotearoa Roopuu Apaarangi Waipiro’s Professor Jennie Connor says adopting alcohol policies proven to reduce consumption will prevent many alcohol-related car crashes and benefit all New Zealanders.

“Health Coalition Aotearoa advocates for the most effective of these healthier policies which are increasing the price of alcohol through excise tax, reducing the places and times that alcohol can be sold, and eliminating all alcohol promotion,” she said. “Alcohol is a commercial determinant of the health of our population and needs to be appropriately controlled to reduce the harm, and the cost to the country” Connor said.

“In addition to improving alcohol policy, there is evidence that drink-driving can be reduced by adopting a 0.02 (virtual zero) legal limit for driving and increasing the frequency of breath testing.”

The last major review of alcohol legislation was undertaken by the Law Commission and recommended major policy changes in its 2010 report. It was followed by the adoption of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

Former Prime Minister, and president of the Law Commission during the review, Sir Geoffrey Palmer said key policies shown to reduce alcohol-related harm, similar to those proposed by Connor, were recommended but not adopted.

“Alcohol is the one product that manages to resist government-led changes and evidence-based thinking,” he said. “Hopefully, any review will succeed where we were failed 10 years ago.”

The Helen Clark Foundation continues to research alcohol-related harm.

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