Heated debate over Hyde St keg party plans

The number of revellers at the annual Hyde St keg party is about to be curtailed, as stakeholders try to minimise the impact of the all-day street party.

An estimated 5000 people attended last year's party, which featured 15 arrests, a roof overloaded with partygoers collapsing and 80 people requiring treatment by St John.

While the keg party was not an Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) event, the association was assisting street residents and stakeholders to organise a safer event, OUSA president Francisco Hernandez said.

Stakeholders include tenants, landlords, police, St John, the Fire Service, Dunedin City Council and the University of Otago.

A debriefing after last year's party indicated ''a need to reduce numbers''. Concerns were also raised about safety and non-students attending the event, Mr Hernandez said.

The OUSA had met Hyde St tenants and other stakeholders to discuss this year's event, the date for which had not yet been confirmed. A meeting for students would be held at noon on Monday at the Union Hall to discuss plans.

''We are at the very early stages still and it needs to be clear that the event is run by the tenants of Hyde St, and that OUSA is just one of many stakeholders involved to try and help them run a safe and positive event with a focus on harm minimisation.''

However, a plan to limit the number of party-goers to between 2500 and 3000 - with each tenant of the one-way street allowed only 15 invitations - sparked heated debate on the OUSA Facebook page.

Mr Hernandez told Channel 9 if students were not willing to negotiate the terms of the event, there was a risk they could lose it all together, as the recently rejected North Dunedin liquor ban proposal could be back on the table.

On the same Facebook page he wrote: ''At Hyde Street last year far too many people got far too wasted''.

''It needs to be said, OUSA put only a small amount of money in to the event compared to what the taxpayer was effectively left with, particularly the health services,'' the post said. Dunedin-Clutha area commander Inspector Greg Sparrow said police were actively involved in meetings for the event, but their position on the Hyde St party was clear.

''While police don't support the Hyde St party, we are aware of the need to work with stakeholders to make the event as safe as possible.''

Cr Kate Wilson, who was behind efforts that resulted in the council decision not to expand Dunedin's CBD liquor ban to North Dunedin, as was suggested after last year's Hyde St party, said she hoped the party-goers were as prepared to make a better go of the event as their representatives, the OUSA, were.

Mayor Dave Cull said if things got out of hand the council could technically shut down future parties, as it did the Toga Parade, but he was ''increasingly confident'' it would not come to that. He believed the council would not reconsider a liquor ban in the area if the party went bad, as it would be difficult to do under new liquor legislation.

He was optimistic the party, which was increasingly better run each year, would be even better controlled this year.

''This is their chance to prove they can do things responsibly etc, and what OUSA is proposing in terms of limits on the party is fabulous.''

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz