Tougher stand on noise complaints

The Dunedin City Council is taking a tougher stand against some increasingly ''obnoxious and belligerent'' students following a record number of noise complaints.

February is typically the noisiest month in the city with O-Week in full swing and students returning from the holiday break, but last month saw a 30% increase in noise complaints from February 2014.

Noise complaints spiked to 498, with 369 of those originating in North Dunedin and central Dunedin, and resulted in 14 seizures of sound equipment.

The complaints have continued at an unusually high rate through March, with 441 complaints made by 8am yesterday, including three equipment seizures at the weekend.

The number of complaints was tapering off a little, but not as much as she would have hoped, council environmental health team leader Ros MacGill saidThe increase in complaints was accompanied by an increase in poor behaviour, she said.

Those throwing parties in the student quarter were becoming confrontational when noise control officers attended.

''The behaviour is disappointing,'' Ms MacGill said.

''[Students] are getting quite obnoxious and belligerent towards the noise control officers.

''The noise control officers are putting themselves at risk in some of these situations.

''When I went out a couple of weeks ago, we had a bottle thrown at us and they are quite often having instruments thrown at them.''

In response to the problem, the council is raising the cost of seizure and storage from $84 to $285 from mid-year.

A $500 fine can also be imposed.

''We are hoping that might be some form of deterrent,'' Ms MacGill said.

''It's not an easy problem to solve but we are doing our best.''

University of Otago student services director Karyn Thomson said students causing issues could be dealt with under the university's student code of conduct.

This year, the proctor dealt with 231 students during January and February, up from 191 the previous year. The university aimed to be proactive in dealing with noisy flats and students.

''Campus Watch respond to noise complaints within our area on a regular basis,'' Ms Thomson said.

''On the vast majority of calls, the residents will reduce the volume of the sound system on our request. On the few occasions residents are not compliant they are advised that noise control staff will attend and could take their stereo system away.

''Campus Watch also visit flats where we are aware parties are planned and give them advice on hosting a party and the noise issue is highlighted in that advice.''

The vast majority of students were taking notice of the university's message to treat the city as they would their home.

However, ''there is a very small minority who need to be reminded of their obligations as responsible members of the community'', she said.

''This will be no different to many mums and dads around the country who have come home to find their children have not treated their own community or household as well as they should have.''

Otago University Students' Association communications manager Tess Trotter said the association supported the council's work to reduce noise issues in the student quarter.

''The complaint numbers provided are for all of central and North Dunedin, which is a large residential area,'' she said.

''Although there will be students included in this number, students are probably amongst the complainants as well.

''The majority of students are respectful citizens.''

Ms MacGill said the problem seemed to stem from an increase in the size of parties and heavy alcohol consumption.

''We are seeing an increasing problem of bigger numbers at parties and I think that's because of social media,'' she said.

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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