Speight's to back O Week no more

Harriet GeogheganSpeight's, a long-time sponsor of the Otago University Students Association Orientation Week, will no longer be associated with the annual event on campus, following a move by the University of Otago to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

However, Lion Nathan, which makes Speight's, is discussing with the students association how it could continue its involvement off campus.

Vice-chancellor Sir David Skegg proposed the on-campus ban last year as a move against New Zealand's binge-drinking culture and excessive drinking by some university students.

It was endorsed by the university council in October.

Neither Lion Nathan nor the students association would say how much the sponsorship deal was worth, but students association general manager Stephen Alexander said in terms of cash it was "not a big deal".

Lion Nathan was "one of many" sponsors, although it had a long history of association with Orientation.

"It is wonderful to have sponsors, but our members are the most important thing to keep us running."

Overall, money from sponsors was "relatively minor" compared with student membership fees, he said.

Lion Nathan corporate affairs director Liz Read said the brewery had agreed with the students association the sponsorship involvement "could not continue in the way it had" and was discussing how the relationship could continue off-campus.

"We are particularly exploring opportunities to collaborate with them to help improve the student drinking culture at Otago, which is obviously in all our interests."

When the ban was announced last year, the brewer had expressed surprise and disappointment the university had not consulted it first.

Students association president Harriet Geoghegan yesterday announced the main line-up for Orientation activities which start on February 21.

The headline band this year is United States-based Health, described as a "fluid, spiky maelstrom of blood and neon, mirrorball and icepick", which "mashes together disco and punk into a noisy, spastic tribal inhalation of sound".

"We can't wait," said Ms Geoghegan.

Other bands playing at Orientation include United Kingdom drum n' base group Chase and Status, New Zealand band the Mint Chicks and Australian hip-hop group Killa Queenz.

The full Orientation programme is expected to be announced in about two weeks.