It’s no secret Queenstown’s a party town, but a long-time social worker says things have become so bad, it needs its own rehab facility.
And she wants booze barons to help pay for it.
Salvation Army social worker Hine Marchand, who’s been in town for 40-odd years, has seen plenty of changes over that time.
One of the more alarming has been the massive increase in the number of places to buy and consume alcohol.
“If we’re going to continue, and it really frustrates me, to open alcohol outlets in this town, to the extent that it is, and not provide for the cause and effect of that, I think we’re failing as a town, we’re failing as a community.”
In the 2018/19 financial year, there were 252 licensed premises in Queenstown, according to council figures.
Back in the 2014/15 year, there were 192.
Marchand says more and more people are seeking addiction help, and getting them that help isn’t easy. She’s been sending two people a week to rehab facilities in Dunedin.
But the wait for a bed can take months.
“For example, someone comes in today and says ‘I’m desperate, I need to go in for treatment’. Usually they’ve got no money, they’re at the bones.
“So you’ve got to get them a doctor’s appointment, that’s $100 if you’re not registered, $60-$70 if you are. But they don’t have that. So once you’ve done that, you have to get a medical certificate which then refers them to drug and alcohol (Southern District Health Board services).”
Then they can wait two-three weeks for an assessment, before the process of getting them into treatment begins in earnest.
“It was demanding enough on me, to go and do all that process, and I’m ok,” she says of a recent case.
“That’s my job. But it was massive, absolutely massive.”
She wants a rehab facility based in Queenstown to cater for locals.
She’s also keen to see Pathways, a Salvation Army day programme, established in Queenstown.
She believes people opening up new licensed premises should have to contribute to local social services working with addicts – similar to a development contribution scenario.
“I think that all these people who want to make their money from this, for this party town, need to put money into the ambulance at the bottom of the hill. They need to put money into people being treated.
“I know everybody’s got their own free choice, but this is a tempting town.”
She says if they can’t stop the rates of addiction, financial contributions would at least take pressure off social services.
“It’s not fair. Someone’s profiting in the town, and it’s not us.
“The organisations in this town, they’ve just got a passion and a heart to work for the people, on very few resources”.
But Queenstown-based Hospitality NZ board member Chris Buckley says the industry does pay its fair share.
He says the industry contributes more than $1 billion in excise tax and GST, $13 million of which goes to the Health Protection Agency for harm minimisation guidance.
He says more than 80 per cent of alcohol is sold and consumed outside of licensed premises.
“On-licensed venues are already extremely well regulated, with rules in place around responsible service of alcohol.
“So as an industry we contribute, we are active – it is more outside the licensed premises that needs the greatest attention and focus.”
Hospitality NZ also provides training to members, including harm minimisation training that “supports and encourages our members to provide a duty of care to guests when inside their venues”, Buckley says.
The Southern DHB couldn’t find anyone willing to be interviewed about addiction services in Queenstown.
But in a statement, specialist addiction services boss David Jaggard says: “The service is very busy, as are all parts of mental health and addiction services across the region.”
The Queenstown service has 1.2 full-time staff.
In the year ending June 30, the service received 68 new referrals.
Jaggard says the service covers all addiction enquiries for the Wakatipu, and can facilitate access to one-to-one counselling and regional services such as medical detox or residential rehab.
Additional medical and administrative support is provided from the Dunedin-based addiction service, he says.