Octagon becoming 'more dangerous': business owner

A police car passes through the Octagon last night. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A police car passes through the Octagon last night. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Calls for increased safety in the Octagon after a serious assault at the weekend are being met by police assurances the area is as safe — or unsafe — as it has always been.

A police spokesman said on Saturday a 20-year-old man was found unresponsive outside the Social Club bar and restaurant on the corner of Princes St and the Octagon.

No charges have yet been laid and inquiries were ongoing, the spokesman said.

A business owner in the area, who declined to be named, said he believed there was an increase in violence within the central Dunedin sector.

"I’d suggest that it happens more now than it ever used to. That’s really worrying.

"The area is more dangerous, the amount of drugs and alcohol that are consumed nowadays is more than what it ever used to be — people just make stupid decisions."

Otago Coastal Area Commander Inspector Marty Gray, of Dunedin, said the data held by police did not show an increase in reported assaults in central Dunedin.

"As in other cities and towns around New Zealand, central Dunedin is busy on Friday and Saturday nights, as people head out to restaurants and bars.

"Offending such as assault is more common between 1am-3am, which co-relates with more people being out on the street."

In 2023, there were 200 reported acts intended to cause injury within the central Dunedin area, with almost 25%, or 46, of those incidents happening on Saturday and Sunday between 11pm and 3am.

In 2022, there were 196 total reported incidents within the central area, with 26 of those happening between 11am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Insp Gray said more police were on patrol at weekends in the Octagon.

"The visible police presence works to both provide reassurance and to enable a quick response to any incidents that may arise.

"This is particularly important later in the evening and into the early morning as bars begin to close and people begin to make their way home following their night out."

Regular meetings were held between police and bar owners and they had a long-standing and established relationship.

The two groups work together to make the area as safe as they can and had strategies in place to reduce offending.

"There is a process in place for a blanket trespass notice – that is, if someone is trespassed from one of the bars for a serious offence, they would be banned from all venues that are part of the group."

A Dunedin City Council spokesman said 13 cameras in the Octagon were actively monitored by police.

"We are always concerned to see incidents of this type in our city and, as a signatory to the Sophia Charter, we also work alongside many other stakeholders – including police – to enhance the safety and well-being of our student community."