Welcome, please respect your city

Two contrasting headlines, one below the other in the same day’s Otago Daily Times.

The story "Students’ return brings excitement" led page four on Monday. "Castle St a ‘sea of glass and rubbish’ was tucked in underneath.

Right there, laid out for all to see on one page, was a summary of Dunedin’s relationship with its university and polytechnic students.

It’s good to see those young, eager faces back. Summer in Dunedin is always noticeably quiet, particularly in the north end of town. You could play cricket along George St on some summer Sunday evenings.

No other city in New Zealand is as tied up with the student experience as Dunedin. Students bring bucket loads of life to town, keeping us all young (or younger, at least), boosting the city’s reputation as a leader in higher learning, and doing much for the local economy.

At a rough calculation, the 25,000-odd students who land at the start of each year account for nearly 20% of the city’s population. That is a hugely significant proportion — as we can tell when they are no longer here.

We all remember leaving home for the first time. The excitement of standing on your own two feet but the anxieties of saying goodbye to parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends, pets and the bedroom you grew up in.

Glass, empty cans and a plethora of abandoned RTD boxes littered Castle St following a busy...
Glass, empty cans and a plethora of abandoned RTD boxes littered Castle St following a busy weekend for the residents of studentville. PHOTO: STAFF REPORTER
It’s understandable that, in an atmosphere charged with the exhilaration of freedom and in the company of other enthusiastic youngsters, things sometimes get a bit out of hand. Most of us have enjoyed a good party at some stage in our lives, although fewer of us will have indulged in some of the drunken antics with which a few give all students a bad name.

Smashing glass is a particularly egregious and dangerous behaviour with the potential to harm others. Even if pedestrians miraculously avoid cut feet, and cyclists and motorists escape punctured tyres, shards of shattered glass are a terrible sight and degrade a neighbourhood.

Rubbish strewn along streets and cluttering gutters is another awful look. Dunedin prides itself on its beautiful environment, which makes the sight of such lazy littering even harder to take. Please don’t smash glass, and find out which day your rubbish is collected.

Have a great time in Dunedin. Even if you move away after your studies, it will always be a second home to you.

And another thing

A huge compendium of ideas and plans to lift New Zealand’s struggling science sector out of its torpor disturbingly appears to have been canned by the new government.

According to the Science website, Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Judith Collins is quietly cancelling the multi-year Te Ara Paerangi-Future Pathways project.

This aimed at giving New Zealand science a facelift and boosting our slumbering level of investment in research and technology as a percentage of gross domestic product, which is hovering around 1.5% compared with, say, Denmark and Finland on double that.

At the end of last month, Ms Collins wrote to an advisory panel saying she planned not to continue with those reforms.

In December 2022, a white paper was released. Its intention was to give the 30-year-old Crown Research Institutes a refresh and deal with some unhealthy competition between them, increase diversity among the workforce in research organisations, and do something about the appalling lack of job security and limited career paths for our young scientists.

However, even then there were fears the project might falter due to financial constraints, with warnings sounded about the possibility of such crucial changes being put up on the shelf. Unfortunately, that appears to have come to bear.

It also raises concerns for the future of Project Hau Nuku, the review of New Zealand’s weather forecasting system initiated by the previous government last July.

It will be very interesting to see what Ms Collins and her team come up with to enhance our science spending and make us more competitive with other OECD countries.

Frankly, it’s going to have to be pretty good to beat the thousands of hours put in by hundreds of highly knowledgeable science people during the past few years on Te Ara Paerangi.