This month sees the population of Dunedin swell as the swarm
of some 25,000 students returning for the start of the
tertiary year brings a youthful buzz to the city.
Some are returning to their undergraduate courses, some
undertaking higher study and some fresher-faced youngsters
will be leaving home for the first time to begin their
tertiary study - and their foray into the adult world.
They are here to study in a vast range of fields - from fine
arts to the performing arts, from languages, business,
science, medicine and teaching, to physical education and
outdoor pursuits, the hospitality sector, or in the building
or engineering trades. And there is no doubt many of them
also choose to come to Dunedin to study in the ''university
Dunedin has a unique student environment. The main education
providers and majority of student accommodation are
predominantly found in North Dunedin. The densely populated
student quarter offers thousands of young people a wonderful
way to socialise with like-minded people in similar stages in
their lives and in a relatively safe, supportive, easily
accessible environment in a town which undoubtedly
appreciates the injection of income students bring to the
local economy - but also their youth, diversity and energy.
The city is proud to harbour and nurture the future minds and
workforce of our country and send them out into the world
armed with the skills and knowledge they have gained at our
respected educational institutions. We are also proud to show
off to them our city - its heritage, natural environment and
wildlife, our impressive sporting and cultural assets, our
festivals and tournaments, our produce, our technology and
innovation, our artists, music and entertainment.
We are fortunate to have them live in our accommodation, eat
and drink in our cafes and bars, shop in our retail outlets
and often work part-time alongside or for us. We know the
tens of thousands of students graduating each year are some
of our best ambassadors, and the experience they leave with
is pivotal in the message about the city they will spread
when they return to their home towns throughout New Zealand
or head overseas to ''take their place in the world'' and fly
the Kiwi flag.
It is for all these reasons the city not only lays out the
welcome mat, but is also generally tolerant of some of the
high-spirited antics that inevitably come with such a
predominance of young people in a small area. Orientation
activities, nude rugby games, the capping show and graduation
parades all add colour and flavour to Dunedin life - for
everyone. But, of course, it can be a fine balance and the
relationship between town and gown can become stretched, with
the beginning of each year often a flashpoint.
Students beginning their ''Dunedin experience'' may be high
on the possibilities of their new-found freedom - not to
mention alcohol or drugs - but they should remember that some
activities that start as fun can rapidly slide into
antisocial behaviour which has all been seen before by
permanent Dunedin residents. When drunken hijinks turn into
violence, destruction of property and street disorder, there
should certainly be no expectation that playing the student
card should get anyone out of jail free.
Criminal and dangerous activity will not be tolerated by
police, the fire department, health services, the university
or polytechnics, the council, businesses or residents who
have to deal with the aftermath. Scenes such as the violent
drunken rampages which have occurred during past toga party
parades, Hyde St keg parties or Undie 500s do students, other
hangers-on and the city no favours in terms of the negative
coverage they attract and the negative image they portray.
Just as the city benefits from the good times, so, too, is
its reputation tarnished by the bad behaviour of a minority
The relationship between town and gown is symbiotic and
long-standing. But what has been learnt over the years is
that it must be based on mutual respect and appreciation -
and perhaps a bit more education and leeway on both sides.