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.

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