Lion Nathan wants urgent talks with the University of Otago on how its ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship will affect two contracts already in place.
The university council on Tuesday approved an immediate ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship on all campuses, in university-owned or controlled buildings, and at all university-organised events.
The ban, initiated by vice-chancellor Prof Sir David Skegg as a stand against New Zealand's binge-drinking culture and excessive drinking by some university students, was greeted with a largely positive reaction yesterday.
But Lion Nathan corporate affairs director Liz Read said while the company respected the university's right to impose the ban, it was "surprised and disappointed" the university had not consulted it first.
Lion Nathan, which manufactures Speight's and other brands, had product arrangements with the university and the Otago University Students Association (OUSA).
Each contract was for a five-year term from February 2007.
Both included sponsorship deals, she said.
"We will be seeking a meeting to find out what the ban means [and whether] the contractural obligations on both sides can be met. If they can't - if the contracts are effectively frustrated - we may seek liquidated damages."
Asked if that meant Lion Nathan might sue for breach of contract, Ms Read said the company would consider its options once it had talked to the university.
Prof Skegg said yesterday he believed the university's contract with Lion Nathan was a supply agreement and not sponsorship.
He said Lion Nathan and others potentially affected by the ban had not been contacted before the decision was made because he felt that should not happen until after the council meeting.
Ms Read did not believe the ban would alter student drinking.
"How anyone thinks banning our association with the annual Speight's Great Debate will change student drinking behaviours is beyond me."
OUSA president Edwin Darlow, who abstained from voting on Tuesday, said yesterday the association would also talk to the university and Lion Nathan about the implications of the ban.
"At this stage, we don't know what the impact will be. There is no explanation for how far the ban goes."
On Tuesday, Prof Skegg said the university had yet to work through the practicalities of the ban.
Cases would be dealt with as they arose, with himself or his nominee having the power to enforce the ban or authorise an exemption.
He said the council might need to re-examine the wording of the ban in about a year.
The OUSA does not sell alcohol on campus.
Licensed premises on university grounds would not be affected.
Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin, who is a member of the university council but who was not at Tuesday's meeting, said yesterday he supported the ban and believed it would change student drinking behaviour over time, in tandem with other measures the university, the city council and police were taking.
Dunedin-Clutha area police commander Inspector Dave Campbell applauded the move.
"Dunedin has a significant problem with student misbehaviour involving alcohol, and somehow we need to try and change that culture. This is a positive step."
However, he said police still wanted a permanent liquor ban in the North Dunedin student area because of problems with street parties.
The ban would have no effect on next year's Masters Games, expected to attract about 7000 competitors, chairman Cr John Bezett said.
The official games village is based at the university, and hosts social events, entertainment and medal presentations.
Cr Bezett said the university gave the games a substantial grant in exchange for the university holding the rights to sell all food and drinks.
It would be up to the university to ensure its alcohol suppliers knew their products could be sold on campus, but not advertised, he said.
Areas potentially affected include. -
- Direct sponsorship.
- Events and conferences held on campus.
- Clothing with alcohol logos worn by students or staff.
- Posters for events off campus sponsored by alcohol companies.
- Sponsored staff functions.
- Sponsored conference programmes.
- Alcohol advertising in newspapers and magazines available on campus.
- Alcohol advertising on radio and television stations accessible on campus.
- Online alcohol advertising.
- Prizes supplied by alcohol companies for quiz nights, competitions.
- Vehicles signwritten with alcohol logos.
- Alcohol companies participating in trade exhibitions at conferences.
- Conference giveaways such as USB drives or bags with alcohol logos.