Waipiro / alcohol and Māori

The history of alcohol and Māori has been well described in the link below, and describes the many petitions by Māori calling for the total prohibition of alcohol, realising the harm it was causing to their communities.

Pre-European Māori were one of the few known societies NOT to have manufactured or used psychoactive substances. 

Click the button to read more.  A HISTORY OF MĀORI AND ALCOHOL

Trends in alcohol consumption among Māori

 ‘Hazardous drinking’ refers to an established alcohol drinking pattern that carries a risk of harming the
​drinker’s physical or mental health or having harmful social effects on the drinker or others.

From 2006/07 to 2011/12, the rate of hazardous drinking among Māori men and women dropped considerably (from 43.5% to 37.1% in men, and from 24.2% to 20.9% in women). 

From 2011/12 to 2015/16, hazardous consumption remained stable among Māori men but increased substantially among Māori women. In 2012/13, Māori women had a rate of hazardous drinking equal to that of European/other men.

The survey question changed in 2015/16 - but what can be seen is that the rates of hazardous drinking remain high among Māori men and women.

These changes are shown below:

Among men by ethnicity, the prevalence (%) of hazardous drinking is below:

Among women by ethnicity, the prevalence (%) of hazardous drinking is below:

Among different ethnic groups (total), the prevalence (%) of hazardous drinking is below: 


Inequities between Māori and non-Māori

In 2019/20, there were large and statistically significant differences in the prevalence of hazardous drinking between Māori and non-Māori:

  • Māori were 1.79 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers
  • Māori men were 1.57 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers
  • Māori women were 2.22 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers

Alcohol-related harm among Māori

Māori suffer extraordinary harm from alcohol - from their own drinking and from the drinking of others. The Law Commission has documented many of these harms:

  • Between 2004 and 2007, Māori deaths from alcohol were two and half times greater than non-Maori.
  • Of the 802 alcohol-related deaths in New Zealand in 2007, 185 were Māori and 617 were non-Māori.
  • Māori are more likely to be apprehended by police for an offence that involved alcohol
  • Māori are more likely to experience harmful effects on areas such as financial position, work, study or employment, injuries and legal problems as a result of their drinking compared with other New Zealanders
  • Māori women suffer more adverse effects as a result of other people’s drinking than any other sub-group by ethnicity and gender.
  • There are strong links between alcohol and suicide. New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world and again, inequalities are present between Maori and non-Māori.

Inequities in alcohol consumption and harm are unjust and preventable.

The social, economic and physical environment is unjust


Economic deprivation plays a major role in drinking and harm. Māori are more likely to experience deprivation than non-Māori.


Research estimates that 35% of the relationship between Māori ethnicity and hazardous drinking is explained by experience of discrimination.

New Zealand Secondary school students who report experiencing ethnic discrimination are almost twice as likely to report binge drinking as those who do not.

The effects of colonisation, institutional and structural biases are likely to play major roles in Māori experiencing disproportionately more harm from their drinking and ability to improve the socio-economic and physical conditions of daily life.


Living in communities saturated with alcohol outlets has been found to increase the risk of hazardous drinking. Outlets face stiff competition so will often lower their prices and stay open for longer. We know that persons living in a socio-economically deprived area of New Zealand are more likely to live closer to alcohol outlets.

This increased availability of cheap alcohol and longer opening hours is likely to play a major role in Māori suffering more alcohol-related harm.

Research shows that Māori (and Pacific) young males are more negatively impacted by living in close proximity to alcohol outlets than European young males aged 18-24 years.