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$8.9m ‘lifetime costs’ for Gisborne

The cost to ACC of serious injuries from drink-driving accidents in Gisborne for the past five years amounts to $8.9 million, new data shows.

Data released by the ACC to the Helen Clark Foundation also shows that nearly half of those costs occurred last year alone.

“The main thing it shows when the price is high — and the thing we need to remember — is the severity of the accidents also increases a lot,” Helen Clark Foundation health researcher Matt Shand said.

“These are lifetime costs, someone's journey to recovery. So if a young person injures themselves with something permanent like a spinal injury then they are going to require care for a long time.

“It's really important to remember with this data that it represents the reality of someone who has had an injury.

“The question is how do we stop people getting injured?”

Lifetime costs are calculated by identifying all car crashes where a police officer determined alcohol to be a factor and identifying ACC costs associated with these crashes across the expected lifetime of the claim.

These costs are paid for out of the ACC Motor Vehicle Account, which is funded from a variety of means, including vehicle licensing (rego) and petrol tax.  

Mr Shand said the project calculated the alcohol harm-related costs and identified progressive policies that could be put in place to curb that harm.

“What this data shows is that everyone can choose to drink alcohol if they wish to but we don't get a choice whether or not we get to pay for the harm it causes.

“This data shows that even in smaller and rural areas, like Gisborne, no one escapes this cost. Whether or not you have one or two drinks a day or you are a teetotaller, you still have to pick up the tab.

“Nationally, $1.162 billion has been amassed in lifetime costs to ACC over the past five years.  

“Taken as an average over the five years, and that is $232.5 million per year or about $636,000 every single day, that will need to be paid over the lifetime of injuries occurred in the year.

“When I saw this data I knew I had to release it because I didn't expect it to be this high,” Mr Shand said.

Auckland city topped the list for the highest lifetime costs due to alcohol-related crashes, at $221m over five years.

The Waikato district was second with $124.7 million, followed by Christchurch ($80m), Whangarei ($59m), Wellington ($52m), Palmerston North ($40m) and the Far North ($36m). 

For Wairoa, those costs came in at $22.8m but on a per capita basis the town faces the highest burden, with costs running at $2542 per resident.