New initiative proposed to remedy New Zealand's student binge drinking culture

Friday 7 May 2010, 3:20PM


A unique initiative targeting the culture of student binge drinking in Otago, and focusing on the safety of students, was revealed today at the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) Conference.

The theme of the conference is ‘Time for Action’, with a focus on working together to create sustainable changes in the way New Zealanders think about and use alcohol.

The plan - 40 ways to reduce alcohol related harm - was researched and developed by Vanessa Reddy of the Otago University Student Association.

“As an events manager I’ve seen a lot of harm coming to students through binge drinking, including hospitalisation and violence. It’s increasingly a problem that New Zealand has to face up to.”

Vanessa spent a year in the United States investigating how its universities have tackled the binge drinking culture on their campuses.

“Although binge drinking over there is not as prevalent as it is in New Zealand, some universities have had similar issues and dealt with them very effectively.

“These campuses have gone from seeing frequent out-of-control parties, bottle throwing, and other alcohol-related violence, to a point where students are still drinking, but know how to manage it.”

Based on the most successful US strategies, Vanessa has developed a 40 point plan that offers a comprehensive, holistic approach to tackling New Zealand’s binge drinking problem. She says the plan is a long term solution, rather than a quick fix.

“The idea will be developed by way of a five, ten and twenty year plan at Otago University. Taking a holistic view is essential to countering our binge drinking culture. It’s never going to be one thing that does the trick, but lots of initiatives involving all aspects of life, over a period of time.”

Some of the strategies outlined in the plan include cutting down the number of liquor outlets around campuses, developing a ‘sober up safely’ facility, and ensuring landlords conduct inspections after student house parties.

“Student Health is currently running a pilot scheme involving ‘motivational interviewing’. This is where highly intoxicated students are asked for an informal chat with their residential assistant the following day, to discuss their drinking. This will be followed up with an online survey designed to help students to question their motivation for drinking and think about changing their habits.

“Strategies such as these should help create safer campuses where students can use alcohol without drinking excessively or coming to any harm.”


For further information or comment contact Vanessa Reddy: 021 279 5334 or ALAC Senior Communications Advisor Lynne Walsh on 021 369 081.