Case for change

Pre-European Māori were one of very societies in the world NOT TO produce their own waipiro / alcohol.

Māori experience significant inequities in alcohol use and harm. These inequities are preventable and are driven by many factors in our society including racism, availability of alcohol, deprivation, access to services, and past and present impacts of colonisation.

In 2019/20, Māori males were 1.6 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori males.

In 2019/20, Māori females are 2.2 times more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori females

Rates of hazardous drinking among Māori women increased substantially from 2011 to 2016.

Māori are more likely to experience alcohol-related harm than non-Māori. Young Māori males are more negatively impacted by living in close proximity to alcohol outlets than European young males - the reason for this is currently unknown.

Biological differences between Māori and non-Māori do not explain the inequities that Māori face in relation to alcohol - wider societal and environmental factors must be the focus in preventing and reducing harm.

Waipiro / alcohol and Māori

It is important to know that pre-European Māori were one of the few known societies not to have manufactured or used psychoactive substances.

Many Māori petitioned Parliament for the total prohibition of alcohol, realising the harm that it was causing to their communities.

There is an excellent resource on the history of alcohol and Māori, click the button below.


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, hazardous drinking prevalence 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 drinking 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.

Among men, the rates (%) of hazardous drinking are below:

Among women, the rates (%) of hazardous drinking are below:

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.

Inequities between Māori and non-Māori

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

  • Māori were 1.8 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers
    • Māori men were 1.6 times more likely to be classified as hazardous drinkers
    • Māori women were 2.2 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:

  • 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.
  • Higher proportions of cancer among Māori are due to alcohol, with an average of 12.7 years of life lost from alcohol-attributable cancer for Māori compared to 10.1 years for non-Māori.
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of alcohol-attributable cancer death in both Māori women and non-Māori women, accounting for 61.1% of all alcohol-attributable cancer deaths.
  • 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, inequities are present between Māori and non-Māori.

The roles of the social, economic and physical environment


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


Among Māori adults, experiencing discrimination was found to be significantly associated with elevated levels of hazardous alcohol use. Mediation analysis revealed that 35% of the effect of Māori ethnicity on higher rates of hazardous drinking could be acting through 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 consuming greater amounts of alcohol and experiencing disproportionately more harm from their drinking.


Māori are more likely to live in communities saturated with alcohol outlets. Outlets face stiff competition so will often lower their prices and stay open for longer. 

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 (18-24 years) are more likely to be hazardous drinkers when they live in close proximity to alcohol outlets.