Trash talk

Uncollected rubbish is mounting on Castle St, Dunedin, causing concern for Campus Watch staff who...
Uncollected rubbish on Castle St, Dunedin. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Is it a rubbish argument? Or is there a fair case to say this is indeed potentially harsh treatment of a special group of young residents of the South?

Tertiary students get so much out of their time in Dunedin. It is, however, regrettable that some leave so much behind.

There is agitation between the University of Otago and the Otago University Students’ Association following the former’s push to get the ability to fine students living at flats where rubbish has got out of control.

You know the type of scene — you have walked past it in Castle St a dozen times, or seen the photos in Hyde St. Think old furniture, random bits of wood, glass bottles and general detritus sprawling over a scraggly front lawn.

Among a raft of changes proposed to the university’s Code of Student Conduct is power endowed on the proctor to dish out fines — and daily fines, at that — to students in flats with levels of rubbish that have ‘‘an adverse effect on the visual amenity’’, which is perhaps an unnecessarily fancy phrase but does a reasonable job getting the message across.

Students are hard-wired to react negatively to any form of structure or control, and the students’ association has been predictably quick to condemn the proposal as unfair.

Rubbish issues, it argues, are between student flatters and their landlords or property managers, and not up to the university to police. The much-ballyhooed Code of Student Conduct, it points out, exists to ‘‘promote the safety and wellbeing’’ of the student community, and OUSA president Michaela Waite-Harvey suggested to RNZ the rubbish proposal was not exactly ‘‘something that is going to foster the wellbeing of students’’.

We have some sympathy for both those arguments, and acknowledge the vast majority of students are dealing with their trash just as well as the vast majority of home owners and renters in the city.

On the whole, though, we don’t see this proposal as reason for the bookworms to be alarmed.

Like students, we have learned to be healthily cynical when people in positions of responsibility try to give themselves more power. But, in this instance, we see no reason not to believe proctor Dave Scott, who told RNZ the fine for rubbish would only be used as a last resort.

Engagement and education would remain the priorities, he said, but there needed to be the option of a specific consequence if students did not play ball.

We are with the proctor on this one.

Students, we like your energy, your intelligence, your vibrancy, your spirit, your economic input to this fair city.

But, no, we don’t like it when your flats turn into miniature dump sites. And there is no excuse for that happening when every opportunity is given to you to help keep your part of town tidy.


We are quick to criticise professional sporting teams if they are seen to be taking matters of off-field discipline too lightly.

So, a (small) bouquet to the Highlanders this week for acting smartly following an allegation of assault, against a woman, directed at star loose forward Shannon Frizell.

The All Black has been stood down for a big game, the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman opener against the Reds tonight. And, while some will be unhappy with the Highlanders referring to the issue as a ‘‘distraction’’, that is not unfair given no charges have been laid.

We do not sense the franchise is taking this matter lightly. Indeed, it was pleasing to hear chief executive Roger Clark addressing the ‘‘ongoing challenge’’ of dealing with ‘‘50 young men from 19 to 30’’ who are expected to prepare professionally and sometimes need to ‘‘be better’’.



There is little difference between the teenager’s bedroom and the state of a student flat, both inside and out. It always takes a few years before the concept of individual responsibility filters through. After all, there is so much study, partying and hangover recovery time required over the course of a student year, activities that severely distract one from the more mundane rituals of domestic chores. Yet unlike the teenager’s bedroom, the shared pedestrian pavements of our city are not the sole playground of students eager to stage an on-going re-enactment of ‘The Filth and The Fury.’ When you lacerate your own foot on your own broken glass, or cut your hand on that poorly disposed of baked bean can, it may at least spur recognition on some meaningful cognitive level, that neglect equals pain, and for the sake of basic self-preservation. Pick up a broom, pull open a rubbish sack, sort out the flat recycling. After all, for those often obsessed with environmental wellbeing, it starts at home.

These kids should get out earning, so their income tax can support our Superannuation.

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