Liquor ban impractical

The Hyde St keg party last Saturday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The Hyde St keg party last Saturday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
The enforcement of any North Dunedin liquor ban would undo the ever-increasing good relationship between police and students, writes Otago University Students' Association president Logan Edgar.

The Otago University Students' Association recently submitted its opposition to the proposed extended liquor ban in North Dunedin, and also a petition opposing the proposed liquor ban, and asking the Dunedin City Council to work with students and the affected community groups to find an alternative.

The OUSA consultation process included many student groups and societies. The following groups support this submission: the University of Otago Commerce Students' Society, the Otago University Medical Students' Association, the Otago University Physiotherapy Students' Association, the Otago University Surveying Students' Association and the Otago University Applied Science Students' Association.

We believe the DCC is lacking a strategic and realistic approach to dealing with students. With more than 20,000 students, mainly young people, in Dunedin, the DCC needs to figure out how to engage coherently and consistently with students and all parts need to be proactive rather than reactive.

The OUSA believes the proposal is impractical.

The intention of this ban is to stop students from consuming alcohol in the street but more specifically to rid the area of certain social gatherings and more accurately, after discussions with Mayor Dave Cull, the Hyde St keg party.

It's a day when Dunedin students dress up in amazingly creative costumes and party with their classmates in a street which is only too welcoming of the event, with every street resident participating.

The festivities of Hyde St can be compared with the Sevens in Wellington, yes a much larger event, but one that sees the community working together to provide a closed-off zone along Courtenay Pl with bases set up for police and first aid to work from, similar to how we helped set up Hyde St. Having no licensed premises there, a liquor ban would be a step too far and ruin the event. Instead, a glass ban, having the students involved in planning and communication, plus good safety measures, are the way to go.

The approach of working together is the way to go if Dunedin wants to avoid seeing police decked out in riot gear being made to enforce a second-rate strategy that actually decreases public order.

Indeed, trying to enforce such a ban would undo the ever-increasing good relationship police continue to form with students.

It's this good relationship with the police, the DCC and the university that has seen a shift in student culture during the past 18 to 24 months where students are much less tolerant of excessive antisocial behaviour.

The OUSA believes the 2012 Hyde St keg party went as planned and that the issues that remain can be remedied. These include regulating the number of people, regulating the number of non-students, getting people off the roofs, and minimising excessive intoxication - for example by ensuring all licensed premises nearby are seen to abide by their licence (an issue for the police and the DCC).

The issue we face is a national one, excessive drinking. Kiwis love to get "on the piss" and taking it too far is something we need to sort out.

In terms of crime though, it might be surprising for a lot of Dunedinites to find out that in fact Dunedin has a very low rate of public-order offences (90.6/10,000 population) compared with most places (for example. Wellington 94/10,000; Christchurch Central 445/10,000; Auckland Central 553/10,000) according to the police statistics July 1, 2010 June 30, 2011.

Given the concentration of young people here, this is testament to the fact the average scarfie is a law-abiding soul.

Maybe it's just down here with a smaller population we don't have so many other things going on that get us so fired up. That kinda sucks because there's no doubt we're a super city.

It's important to point out the first issue of our independent magazine Critic which carried coverage of couch burnings did so with a strong condemnation in its editorial. This stance has been well-supported.

The OUSA is generally supportive of the university's approach to those who are excessively antisocial, including joint promotions and campaigns.

If students did not agree with this stance, they would have elected different representatives.

Instead, candidates are being elected with record numbers, including in the most recent by-election this month.

The liquor ban extension proposal states there is a street-disorder problem in North Dunedin without providing any evidence, for example numbers of arrests or complaints associated with street events.

Because the proposal is devoid of relevant evidence it runs the risk of appearing to be an anti-student measure designed by politicians to make themselves and constituents believe they are taking action when in fact they are merely pandering and avoiding the hard work of making real change.

If you don't want people drinking on the streets then why not just make it a Dunedin-wide alcohol ban?

We've shown you we're working together with the community more, and all parties ought to be congratulated for this positive, pro-social, collaborative approach. Now, we just need to keep doing it and allow it to work over time.

Therefore, it is the OUSA's belief the proposed liquor ban for North Dunedin will do nothing to stop binge drinking, or troublemaking; it will instead just cause a more rapid escalation of trouble when it happens.

The OUSA fully recognises there are real problems around alcohol-related harm on this campus, of this there is no doubt.

However, let's not kid ourselves by seeing the phrase "liquor ban" and think we have been sent the silver bullet.

Let's attack these issues strategically by a wide means of measures. These may include: a glass ban, informative campaigns including what the punishments are (which we are already doing), and the great work being done to create the architecture around events to minimise harm as we saw during our Orientation events and the Hyde St keg party.


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