Students call for cheaper alcohol

Otago University Students' Association president James Heath outside the newly refurbished...
Otago University Students' Association president James Heath outside the newly refurbished Starters Bar, in Dunedin. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Dunedin students want cheaper beer.

But, more than that, they want the Dunedin City Council to help them lobby the Government to make it happen.

Otago University Students' Association president James Heath raised the idea yesterday, during a presentation to the DCC's annual plan hearing.

Mr Heath, speaking for thousands of students across the city, said OUSA wanted to encourage students to drink alcohol in licensed venues.

Pubs like Starters Bar, which OUSA now owned, were supervised drinking environments which provided a safer alternative for students than unregulated flat parties, he said.

''That's where we want our students to drink,'' he said.

However, the cost of drinking in licensed venues - compared to buying from a supermarket or other off-licence - encouraged students to drink at home or on the street instead.

As a result, the OUSA wanted the DCC to lobby the Government to reduce the minimum price bars had to charge for alcohol.

Serving cheaper drinks in bars would help encourage more students into a safer space, reducing alcohol-related harm, he said.

OUSA education officer Will Dreyer also contrasted the current drinking environment with Dunedin's past student pub scene, which he told councillors used to be ''really positive and healthy''.

New Zealand does not yet have a minimum price for alcohol, but instead uses excise taxes, set per litre of alcohol, to influence prices.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell supported the idea of closing the price gap between on- and off-licence alcohol, but believed the issue was more with the cheapness of the alcohol available at supermarkets.

''The main issue is less the expensive booze in bars, it's more about the cheapness of the booze elsewhere.

''So if we could reduce the gap between on-licence and off-licence booze, particularly cheap alcohol from supermarkets, then that will help people make good choices about going into supervised premises.''

The foundation supported the setting of a minimum price for alcohol, he said.

Hospitality New Zealand Otago president Mark Scully said the high price of alcohol at pubs compared with supermarkets was due to the rising cost of doing business, driven by minimum wage hikes and excise taxes.

''When I was a student it cost you $10 to go to the pub and drink 3litres of beer.

''It would be great to see something done to encourage drinking in on-licences.

''I'm the first to admit, as a bar owner, I think the price of drinking on premises is bloody horrific, but I also know a lot of pubs can't afford to charge any less or they wouldn't be here.''

But alcohol was not the only topic on the OUSA agenda yesterday.

The student organisation's wide-ranging submission also spanned climate change, local body elections, housing, public transport and a funding boost for the planned tertiary upgrade, among other issues.

On climate change, OUSA wanted the DCC to develop a ''comprehensive'' action plan by 2021, outlining mitigation and adaptation initiatives for the city, as well as completing a climate change risk report in 2019-20 and establishing a climate change fund.

The student organisation was also working to encourage more students to take part in this year's local body elections, and wanted the council to establish special voting booths and help with other initiatives to mobilise students to vote.

Councillors would consider the OUSA submission as part of their deliberations on the annual plan later this month.

-Additionally reported by George Block


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‘But alcohol was not the only topic on the OUSA agenda yesterday.’ No, it certainly was not. Buy you would never think so from this ODT headline from ‘gutter press’ ODT journalist, Chris Morris. I was present and found the wide-ranging OUSA submission to the DCC Annual Plan POSITIVELY INSPIRING along with the commitment given that the uni students’ association would be actively encouraging students to enrol to vote here in Dunedin ( or in their home town - they can choose). To negatively focus on the beer ( as Morris does) just perpetuates the stereotype of the Otago University student as a drunken lout, whereas this is a generation of New Zealanders who are going to have to be very effectively politically active TO SAVE THEIR OWN LIVES considering the threat of climate change. And are beginning to realise that en masse with groups like Extinction Rebellion. That’s the REAL story!

Ed replies: Reporters don't write the headlines, sub-editors do.

Diane - are you saying there was NO mention at all of students asking for cheaper alcohol ???
I don't care if it was not the only topic. I don't care the rest of the submission was "positively aspiring". It was said and congrats to ODT for highlighting that appalling attitude.
If you want the likes of me to stop "stereotyping the Otago University student as a drunken lout" - then tell them to stop being drunken louts.
I admire our young ones to act on climate change but they need to act on their own health downfalls that are going to cripple our health system in 4 decades = eyesight problems from the over screen use, Alzheimers from the fact the don't use their brains in talking in monkey language and not knowing facts - only knowing how to find facts if they feel the need, deaf from the constant ear pieces of cringe so called music and diabetes from their sugary drinks and the vastly many that fill their bodies up with chemicals, cos its cool.
Students need to work in partnership with society and getting drunk don't do it.
Well done Editor.

Chris Morris - needs to join the police to get better work stories, if he doesn't start reporting correctly he will be like the boy who cry wolf, nobody will believe him. I said the same when he reported on Lee Vandervis for storming out the meeting when he walked out.

Load of rubbish. A wish list for cheap publicity.

After going after all the pubs and bars and clubs in Dunedin it would be just right that Cull and his cronies would team up the OUSA and let the Students have a cheap beer . When would they ever let the public the rates payers that keep Cull and the others in a lifestyle they are all accustomed to Have a cheap beer .No they will just Screw us over and give us all the middle finger yet just throw more money at the students

Who said anything about throwing money at students?
Have you actually read the article?
The OUSA is asking the Council to help lobby the government to lower minimum prices in bars so they are on a level playing field with supermarkets (personally I think they would be better lobbying for higher minimum prices in supermarkets - but that's just my view).
Cull and cronies teaming up to let students have a cheap beer? Really?
People like you are so anti-Cull you have to make up stories in order to vent your displeasure.
Get a grip.

What? talk about a dog with a bone, Obviously you already have a grip not sure what it is on, Why would you think it is a better idea for Supermarkets to have a higher price for a product- it makes no sense at all. Get a grip Dunners.

A big part of the problem is supermarkets running loss leader promotions on alcohol to get people through the doors and buying other products. Ban that practice and the playing field will certainly level out more than it is. As a harmful product it shouldn't be allowed to be used in such a way.


Certainly there was reference to the price and availability of beer but it was presented as an alcohol harm reduction strategy. I agree that not drinking at all or not drinking so much would preferable but, after that, a venue which is supervised is better than one which is not.

What a lot of rubbish, just drink less, plain and simple.

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