OUSA President Hugh Baird has hit back at attempts by the University of Otago to prevent the sale of alcohol at a local liquor store.
The University of Otago is objecting to the continuation of the liquor license at Regent Night’n’Day in North Dunedin, but Baird says their efforts are not only inappropriate but will ultimately be ineffective.
“I don’t think having fewer alcohol outlets here in North Dunedin would change student drinking in any way. [Cancelling the liquor license] would make no difference at all; I think that students will generally walk over broken glass to get themselves to a bottle store,” Baird said.
In a letter to the District Licensing Committee, Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne acknowledged that “under the current legislation we have no grounds for objection,” but nonetheless urged the committee to do “all in its power to address the density and opening hours” of bars and liquor stores in the student quarter.
“The university has the interests of 20,000 students at heart,” she argued, “The excessive consumption of alcohol by young people and the impact of the consumption on the health, safety, and well-being of our students, the reputation of the University of Otago and the City of Dunedin is of great concern to us”.
Baird responded, saying, “I don’t think students in North Dunedin drink any more than those the same age around the county. The only reason why those inside North Dunedin tend to be in the spotlight is because of the density of young population here. Obviously they have the safety of students at heart, but I don’t think it’s the university’s place to be trying to restrict the sales of businesses in the area.”
In a further statement provided to Critic, Hayne pointed to “evidence-based research” conducted in New Zealand, which showed a link between high levels of alcohol consumption and the number of liquor stores within walking distance of a person’s house, and suggested that many societal alcohol issues could be solved by reducing the number of liquor outlets operating.
“The harmful effects of drinking are considerably stronger when off license outlets are within walking distance as opposed to on-license premises such as bars.”
It is not the first time Regent Night’n’Day has faced opposition over its liquor sales. When their license was last up for renewal in 2015, Public Health South Medial Officer Dr Keith Reid opposed the decision on the grounds that the store should not be defined as a ‘grocery store’, but rather a ‘convenience store’, which is not allowed to sell alcohol. The store pointed out that just 5.2 percent of their revenue was from the sale of alcohol, as opposed to 42 percent from groceries.