Close to the edge

Revellers in Hyde St on Saturday. Photo by Eileen Goodwin.
Revellers in Hyde St on Saturday. Photo by Eileen Goodwin.
Dunedin has survived another annual Hyde St keg party.

Once again, drunken behaviour and stupidity by a few has focused public attention on excessive drinking that can turn planned social events into a place of danger.

The event was hailed as a success by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, despite the shoulder charge at an ambulance which ended in the female paramedic driving it being showered with glass.

And perhaps the mayor was not there to witness about a dozen people being arrested on a variety of charges including assaulting security staff, fighting, disorder and offensive behaviour.

University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne commented the majority of students were well-behaved.

And they probably were.

After all, 4000 people reportedly attended the party.

About 50 people were treated by St John staff for the effects of intoxication and injuries.

St John Coastal Otago area manager Doug Third said the mood of the party-goers was generally good but later in the day there were some reasonably grossly intoxicated people seen, which was disappointing.

The University of Otago prides itself on being a centre of excellence for tertiary education, and rightly so.

Accolades have been attached to the research developed and published from the varsity.

It was recently recognised by the Government as the institution to lead some ground-breaking research, with the promise of more funding allowing such research to follow.

As a university, Otago is a beacon for students for both its academic performance and also its lifestyle, which is matched nowhere else in the country.

The sometimes notorious street parties are undoubtedly part of the attraction for at least some students, but now is the time for organisers, the university and civic authorities to question whether it is wise to allow the Hyde St event to continue without at least some changes.

No-one begrudges young people a chance to let off steam, and cheap booze is a spark many use to ignite their party flame.

As we get older, most of us realise too much alcohol can be dangerous, but we can only learn that from experience.

Waking up in a cell, in a hospital or strewn across a lawn can be the type of experience some need to reign in their behaviour.

But for others, too much is never enough.

If we look back to 2009, and the violence of events associated with the last Undie 500 to arrive in the city, the organisers from the University of Canterbury Students Association and Engineering Society of Canterbury realised they could not control the fringe elements turning up solely for a night of mayhem.

The organisers expressed disappointment the Undie 500, where cars costing less than $500 were driven to Dunedin and sometimes abandoned once they had arrived in various states, had been brought into disrepute by the actions of a small minority.

Some of the worst offences appeared to be committed by hangers on, rather than students.

But the type of events such as the Undie 500, and possibly the Hyde St keg party, attract a type of person seemingly intent on self-destruction, often unfortunately at the expense of others.

In the case of the Hyde St party, the Otago University Students Association has become involved to help co-ordinate safety measures and to keep both the attendees and the staff working on the front line of those services safer.

OUSA officials expressed concern about the attack on the St John vehicle.

One suggestion from the OUSA is to lower the numbers of incidents through various measures it has already put in place.

Some of those measures surely must now include a reduction in the number of people who can attend because it is nearly impossible to monitor how much alcohol participants consume.

Mr Cull identified the main problem was people drinking too much, although he rightly acknowledged this is not just a student issue.

Anyone socialising late at night can see the damage inflicted by people pre-loading with alcohol before swarming into the centre of the city.

The police are confident improvements can be made to make the event safe and enjoyable for all. Undoubtedly, the Hyde St party will not be the last this year to involve excess drinking and unsociable behaviour.

Work should start now, rather than later, to prevent such events from tipping over the edge of reason.

Add a Comment


Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter