27 Feb 2018

Auckland councillor calls for bus booze ads to be dumped

7:41 pm on 27 February 2018

An Auckland councillor is demanding Auckland Transport immediately pull alcohol advertising from city buses.

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Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Auckland Transport has a clear advertising policy that does not allow the promotion of alcohol brands or products.

But buses on central and North Shore routes are run by privately-owned NZ Bus, and some are covered with big billboards promoting beer and spirits.

"It's not good enough at all," councillor Cathy Casey said.

She said it was sending mixed messages at a time when thousands of university students were catching public transport to start their year.

"As a council we want to minimise harm from alcohol and gambling - it's part of the Auckland Plan to which [Auckland Transport] subscribe."

Councillor Casey wrote to Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison today to share her frustrations.

In a general statement, Auckland Transport said its hands were tied.

As long as the advertising met the Advertising Standards Authority, Auckland Transport could not tell NZ Bus to remove it, the statement said.

"A huge amount of work has gone into redesigning the city's bus networks, and bringing in new bus contracts ... it's only when these new contracts are in place that AT can take over the advertising on buses."

That would be in July for buses in the city and September for those in North Shore.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Dr Nicki Jackson said the contract shift couldn't come soon enough.

"They expose a huge number of people to their messages and the portrayal that alcohol is fun, it's sexy and it's harm-free."

Alcohol harm costs society about $4 billion each year from children being born with faetal alcohol sprectrum disorder, family violence, road crashes, and lost productivity at workplaces, Dr Jackson said.

"All of these effects reach far into our communites and more New Zealanders are harmed by the drinking of others than by their own drinking."

RNZ approached NZ Bus several times for comment about why it was advertising alcohol on its buses, but it did not respond.

Auckland Transport said it did not have any alcohol advertising on any of its property.

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