Uni students free to drink on campus

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 13:09 24/07/2014

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Canterbury University's campus is likely to be exempted from the provisions of a planned new bylaw permanently banning alcohol consumption on the roads and public places around its perimeter.

The bylaw has sparked controversy because the definition of a public place has been changed to include privately-owned properties to which the public has access which potentially means anyone drinking alcohol on the university campus could be stopped by police.

The definition change was forced on the council by Parliamentary legislation which came into force last December, but University of Canterbury (UC) pro-chancellor Sue McCormack told a council hearings panel the university was very worried about its unintended consequences.

McCormack said it would be unworkable to have the university part of the ban. 

It would impose ''serious and unreasonable limitations on the rights and freedoms'' of the university's students and employees and if the bylaw went through as proposed the university would have no choice but to fence off large areas of the campus from the public.

Don MacBeath, the university's lawyer, said the council would be leaving itself open to legal challenge if it proceeded with the proposed bylaw without exempting the university from its provisions.

''There is no reason why you can't exclude the university,'' MacBeath said.

University of Canterbury Students Association (UCSA) president Sarah Platt Sarah Platt said the association was strongly opposed to having the campus included in the ban. 

''Christchurch really does need students and young people to re-engage with this city. If we reduce the appeal of Christchurch and UC by doing little things like this ... we might decrease the numbers who want to come to Christchurch ... and make it their home,'' Platt warned.

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora told the panel it was important public places like shopping centre car parks were covered by the ban because there had been problems in the past with students ''partying up'' there, but the board had no desire see the university campus covered.

The university had security onsite around-the-clock and was capable of dealing with any alcohol-related problems that might arise on the campus.

''I don't think it would be fair to expect the university to apply for licenses for people who live at the university. It is their home after all. If they want to have a BBQ at the weekend and have a few beers then I don't think it is fair they should be breaking the law.''

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Panel chairman Cr David East said the council had no power to change the definition of a public place so the only option it had was to exempt all, or part, of the university from the bylaw.

''We're setting up a bylaw to essentially cover nuisance activities in our streets and parks. I don't think there was ever any intention for this to cover a tertiary institution,'' East said. 

The panel has decided to recommend the council push ahead with the bylaw but exclude the university campus, apart from University Drive as it is classed as a public road, from its provisions. 

- The Press

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