Telford says students' prosecution over to authorities

Telford Rural Polytechnic students socialise on this piece of Otago Regional Council land on Koau...
Telford Rural Polytechnic students socialise on this piece of Otago Regional Council land on Koau Rd, Balclutha. Photo by Rachel Taylor.
Some Telford Rural Polytechnic students involved in anti-social behaviour at "the beer pit" on Koau Rd are likely to be prosecuted by police and the Otago Regional Council following complaints from Balclutha residents.

This follows an incident on Monday, August 2, when police and fire crews from Balclutha and Kaka Point were called to a bonfire at "the beer pit" - on Otago Regional Council land next to the Clutha River - where police say 25 to 30 students from the polytechnic, aged between 16 and 19, were drinking and socialising.

A neighbouring farmer called police and the fire service about 11.30pm, when 12 tyres were allegedly stolen from his property and used as fuel for the fire.

A 17-year-old hostel resident will appear in the Balclutha District Court on Monday charged with theft.

The Otago Regional Council also confirmed it is looking at charging the students with offences under the Resource Management Act.

Telford chief executive Jonathan Walmisley said he sympathised with the residents of Koau Rd and Telford was working with the wider community to ensure the students disrupted them as little as possible.

Telford director of finance and administration Stewart MacDonell said because the events occurred off campus, Telford was leaving it to the police and the ORC to deal with the students.

Residents of Koau Rd, who wish to remain anonymous because they are afraid of retribution, said similar antics had been going on for years and they believed Telford disregarded its students' off-campus behaviour.

The residents say in addition to stealing tyres to burn, Telford students are responsible for damage to fences and gates on their properties, and releasing livestock on to the road.

Two of the families spoken to said they were scared someone on Koau Rd would be involved in a serious car crash with students driving dangerously, and they worried about their children using the road.

"We feel Telford needs to have more control and lay down some rules on what the students should be allowed to do. Many of these students are under the age [for] drinking," one family said.

Mr MacDonell said students could not drink on Telford land because it was "our land, our area and we have a policy."

He was referring to section 5.17 of the Quality Management Systems (QMS): Halls of Residence policy, which states "students are not allowed to consume alcohol or drugs within any part of the Telford Campus or Farms".

Section 5.45 of the same policy states "students residing in the Halls of Residence must be back within the Halls of Residence by 11.00pm each night Sunday through to Thursday."

When the Otago Daily Times directed Mr MacDonell to the policy, he said the curfew was only a suggestion, and there was no rigid curfew because the hostel catered to students of varying ages, and it was inappropriate to enforce an 11pm curfew on 21-year-olds.

Mr Walmisley said he did not condone anti-social behaviour, but if students were involved in activities away from campus that had not been organised by Telford or the Telford Students Association, Telford had "no right to double jeopardy them" by imposing disciplinary measures on the students.

Mr Walmisley said it was up to the relevant authorities to do what they thought was appropriate.

Sergeant Martin Bull, of Balclutha, said he believed the students could be issued with $350 infringement notices for burning or incinerating specified materials, under the ORC regional plan.

ORC environmental services manager Martin King said the regional council was working with police and the fire service to put a file together about the incident.

Burning tyres was prohibited under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the students could be prosecuted for discharging a contaminant [tyre smoke], he said.

"The fine is up to $300,000 for an individual ..."

While it was too early to say how heavily the students would be penalised, the incident was being looked at very seriously, Mr King said.



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