Members of the police riot squad clash with the crowd in
Castle St yesterday morning. Photo by Stpehen Jaquiery.
City leaders have reacted with fury after the arrival of
the Undie 500 rally from Christchurch again brought a weekend
of violence, bottle-throwing and baton-charges to the streets
of North Dunedin.
The disorder, during which up to 80 people - most of them
University of Otago students - were arrested over two nights,
has prompted renewed angry calls from Dunedin Mayor Peter
Chin for events to be cancelled.
Mr Chin said the reputation of the university and the city
were damaged, and students found to have broken the law
should be dealt with "appropriately" by police and the
Police had already said offenders would not escape
convictions by being offered diversion and Mr Chin said
police should "walk the talk".
"If a few potential careers are wrecked, so be it," he said.
"There may be some parents out there that are going to be to
be feeling very sorry for themselves and their children."Any
hopes of a better-behaved weekend were first dashed on Friday
night, when police made about 20 arrests after hundreds of
young people gathered on Castle St and set fires, pelted
police with bottles and ripped up trees.
Trouble returned in force early yesterday, when a gathering
of 600, mainly students, became violent shortly after
midnight, police area commander Inspector Dave Campbell, of
Dunedin, said yesterday.
Police wearing protective equipment and armed with batons and
pepper-spray took more than an hour to clear the street, he
"Many students were pepper-sprayed when they challenged the
police line and officers had to call for more supplies as
some had emptied their canisters on those students," he said.
Between 50 and 60 arrests were made during the night for
offences including breaching the temporary liquor ban,
disorderly behaviour, obstruction and wilfully setting fire
to property, he said.
About 80% of those arrested across both nights were Otago
students, 10% were from the University of Canterbury and 10%
were not students.
They would appear in court at the end of the week.
Some appeared to have come from as far away as Gisborne and
Taupo for the weekend, police said, and there were
unconfirmed reports of youths as young as 12 years old on
"The annual Undie 500 event only brings grief to Dunedin.
Despite promises about improved behaviour, nothing has
changed," he said.
Mr Chin said he was "hugely disappointed and quite angry",
having earlier urged the event's organisers, the Canterbury
University Engineering Society (Ensoc), to cancel the rally.
"It wasn't as though it was unexpected . . . people under the
influence of alcohol lose all reason and are completely
uncontrollable. It's just mob rule."
Mr Chin visited Castle St about 10.30pm on Saturday, when it
was calm, but saw "some very sorry sights" during a visit to
the Dunedin central police station at 5.30am yesterday, when
some of those arrested were being processed.
"Looking into one or two of the cells there, people were
looking dead to the world."Those involved were a tiny
minority of Dunedin's 22,000 students, most of whom "feel
very ashamed about what has happened", he said.
It was too early to say what sort of response would be
considered by the city's Dunedin North working party, but "I
think we need to look at all sorts of things," the mayor
He acknowledged options were limited as it was impossible to
stop a law-abiding motorist travelling from Christchurch to
Dunedin, but said he wanted "to do whatever is lawfully
possible" to prevent a repeat.
Mr Chin also questioned Ensoc's responsibility in organising
the event, knowing it was a "drunken pub crawl" that drew the
crowds, and described their charitable food drive as "a sop".
"The reality is, it's the event that attracts all these other
things that happen. If the event didn't happen, the events
that go with it wouldn't happen."
However, Ensoc president Carl Shrimpton, of Christchurch,
said while the weekend's events were "disappointing", efforts
to encourage good behaviour had worked for Canterbury
students entering the rally.
Ensoc had attempted to organise a concert at Dunedin's Edgar
Centre, to draw students away from uncontrolled street
congregations, but the effort fell flat in August, he said.
Talks had progressed to the point Ensoc was expecting a
contract in the mail to sign, but instead got a letter
rejecting the proposal, after Edgar Centre staff consulted
parties including the DCC, he said.
He rejected calls for the Undie 500's immediate banning,
saying any decision would be made after a debrief involving
He believed a ban would merely drive it underground, as
happened last year.
Otago University Students Association president Edwin Darlow,
of Dunedin, condemned the bottle-throwing and violence and
praised police for doing a "fantastic job" handling the
He agreed a ban would not solve the city's problems and
agreed an organised event was needed to keep students
occupied and off the streets.
"Until Peter Chin pulls his head out of the sand and realises
the city has to manage the event, we are still going to have
Simply saying 'we don't want people to come' is not going to
Mr Chin rejected that argument, countering that organisers
needed to take responsibility for student behaviour.
He said the Edgar Centre event decision was made by centre
University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Sir David Skegg said
the weekend's events were "extremely disappointing", and the
Undie 500 "must not occur again".
"The university will take whatever action is possible under
its disciplinary powers when those responsible have been
Student behaviour in Dunedin has been excellent in recent
months and these deplorable events would not have occurred if
the Canterbury students had not gone ahead with their