Nelson Mayor Nick Smith slams 'over the top', 'PC' debate on banning alcohol advertising at sports events

  • 04/04/2024

Nelson Mayor Nick Smith says those seeking to ban alcohol advertising at sports games are "a bit over the top" and "a bit PC".

He told AM the economic benefits for the region outweigh the "minor issue" of concerns about social harm.

It comes as the fate of hosting international cricket in Nelson hinges on whether or not alcohol advertising is allowed, with councillors needing to decide by May whether or not it'll allow alcohol advertising at Saxton Oval.

Last year, councillors reversed a decision to block advertising for cricket matches over the summer – but that only lasted for the year.

Now councillors are split - but it's been a contentious an issue for years.

Greens co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick put through the Alcohol Harm Minimisation Bill which would ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport, but it failed at the first reading last year.

It comes after University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) researchers pushed for a ban in 2017. 

The study found marketing drives alcohol consumption by encouraging drinking, which causes issues including violence, injury, mental health problems and cancer.

And even Kiwis are divided on the issue. A 2022 Newshub-Reid Research poll asked "should alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport be banned?" 

  • 44 percent said yes it should be banned
  • 44.3 percent said no
  • The rest didn't know

Smith told AM on Thursday said his region loved its cricket, but the issue of alcohol advertising "continues to be a hiccup".

"What happened was three years ago the previous council decided to put in a policy that absolutely banned all alcohol advertising," he said.

"I've actually got some sympathy – I hate seeing our sports facilities with those large, ugly hoardings all year round with alcohol advertising - but I think for a regional centre like Nelson you've just got to be a bit pragmatic.

"The amount of alcohol advertising we saw at both the Black Cap and the White Ferns games was pretty minimal, I had to look pretty hard to find it."

Smith said the events were family-friendly and well run.

Saxton Oval is jointly owned with neighbouring Tasman District Council, so the decision will be put to the joint councils – each council's 12 councillors and two mayors - around the end of April.

"I just hope common sense is going to rule the day and that we can again have international cricket at Saxton Oval in Nelson next year, but ultimately that'll be a decision for the two councils," Smith said.

He added that his position comes after a "sad" regional economic survey showed Nelson was "bottom of the pops".

"So, I as mayor am just trying to do everything I possibly can to have activity in our region. 

"International cricket in summer is a real boom. We've had wonderful numbers of people participate in the games and I think the economic benefit is far greater to the region than this relatively minor issue of alcohol advertising."

Smith said if children were surveyed about what alcohol advertising they saw at games most wouldn't even realise, reiterating it had been "pretty subtle and not in your face".

"If Parliament wants to ban alcohol advertising let them do so, and look I understand alcohol causes a lot of social problems in communities, but if you are an individual council doing it you're not going to have any less alcohol advertising on TV at these games, all that's going to happen is Napier or Tauranga or one other centre will get the games. That's to Nelson's disadvantage."

Comparing to 30 or 40 years ago when Smith had seen "drunken brawling events" at games, he said Cricket New Zealand had become very responsible.

"They're wonderful family events and those seeking to block them are just being a bit over the top, a bit PC, and we should be able to get on and enjoy our cricket."