Otago University Students' Association president
Francisco Hernandez makes the case for student Orientation
events at Forsyth Barr Stadium finishing at midnight. He
believes communication on the issue has been much better this
Some of this year's 25,000 students look at what is on
offer at the Museum Reserve yesterday as part of the
University of Otago's Orientation. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The Dunedin City Council, through its hearings committee, has
decided to allow two Orientation 2013 events this week at
Forsyth Barr Stadium to go to midnight. Because of the noise
level, resource consent was required for beyond 11pm.
The OUSA accepts a balance is required between several
different segments of the citizenry of Dunedin and their
competing demands. I want to lay out the main points of our
position as a contribution to the communication the OUSA
believes is needed so that negative effects of noise are
The OUSA was established in 1890, has 50 core staff and a
core volunteer complement of 500. Paid staff numbers spike at
key times, like Orientation, to 100, as we use many people,
including students, on short-term contracts to access the
expertise and labour required for such large undertakings.
In addition, we have specialist contractors providing
services in many areas of expertise, including sound,
lighting and traffic management.
A highly professional approach is taken to OUSA activities in
line with the demands of students, who are members, and the
leaders of their students' association. Dunedin is the
premier student city in New Zealand. We have high
concentrations of students in small areas and a high
proportion of people who come to Otago University from
outside the region.
Recently, the Otago Daily Times published a front page
story about the iD fashion week bringing in $1.8 million to
the city. The 2011 economic impact of the university was
$1.42 billion and that of the polytechnic $206 million. A 1%
drop in enrolments is economically the same as a fashion
The point is that very small shifts in student preferences
for institutions matter a great deal. One of the consequences
of inviting 25,000 mostly young people to Dunedin, who then
constitute about 20% of the citizens, means that students
have a legitimate and strong voice, one that is stronger than
in any other city in New Zealand.
Hence, we argue that there ought to be a higher noise
tolerance for Orientation in this premier student city during
that premier student week.
The OUSA points out that, because of the overlay of
encouraging pro-social choices through event design and
health and safety systems, our events reduce the risk of
negative outcomes during this period. Over many years,
reports in the ODT show various authorities praising
the OUSA for the outcomes of its events. Last year was the
first year we used Forsyth Barr Stadium. We made
communication mistakes. We didn't tell the wider public
effectively when events were on and when they would end. That
would have increased anxiety.
This year, we are doing a better job.
For the first time, the Orientation magazine has been
published in partnership with the ODT and sent out to all
readers of the ODT, which is a sizeable part of the
population. Actually, the debate about hours of operation
featured in the ODT, and this also supports the
communication. We also have worked with the Dunedin City
Council on wording for public notices and, crucially,
conducted a letter drop to the most affected suburbs, which
were identified according to the number of complaints
received in 2012. The OUSA is aware that effective
communication in 2013 may perversely increase complaints as
most people will know the OUSA is responsible.
Some people might say that just because they are young,
students don't need to attend events until midnight. It is
true that most events held at the stadium finish before 11pm,
but that is because they are targeted at a more senior
segment of the population. The Hollies, Elton John and Paul
Simon are all specifically enjoyed by those over 40. There is
nothing wrong with that; I aspire to join the seniors in due
course. However, it points to how the noise rules mean that a
major asset of the city becomes unavailable for practical use
by a significant segment of its citizens who paid for it -
and students do pay their rates through their rents.
And with 20% of the population being students, the centre of
gravity of what is reasonable does shift towards student
preferences, which on average are more liberal towards noise
levels and later hours of operation. In our view, a midnight
finish during Orientation Week balances the reasonable needs
of all parties. It recognises that students are a significant
economic and citizen component of Dunedin, whose desires
ought to carry weight, particularly for the premier
orientation in New Zealand during the premier student week of
the year, in this the premier student city in New Zealand.