Death at bus hub: ‘We need this city to be safe’

A school leader says Dunedin needs to "be better" at keeping its young people safe after a teenage boy was stabbed to death at the city’s bus hub on Thursday afternoon.

The city has been left reeling after the death of 16-year-old Trinity Catholic College pupil Enere McLaren-Taana.

A 13-year-old has been charged with his murder.

Enere McLaren-Taana in Christchurch for the 2021 South Island Athletics Championships where he...
Enere McLaren-Taana in Christchurch for the 2021 South Island Athletics Championships where he won gold in the U14 long jump. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The death follows a series of violent incidents at the Great King St bus hub, which is beside the Dunedin Central Police Station.

Police have been in the firing line for failing to address the situation and Mayor Jules Radich has been criticised for saying the bus hub is safe and calling the stabbing "an isolated incident".

Enere was a former pupil of King’s High School.

Acting rector Darin Smith said speaking as both an educator and a father, no parent should say goodbye to their child in the morning and then never see them again.

"They say goodbye in the morning to their young ones and ‘you have a great day and I love you lots’. They don’t expect to be the position they’re in right now. We all have a responsibility with our community to address this.

"As a city we should expect better, as a city we need better for our kids, as a city we need better to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of us all is a priority.

"We as a city need to be safe."

Young people support each other at the Dunedin bus hub yesterday, as a large group gathered for a...
Young people support each other at the Dunedin bus hub yesterday, as a large group gathered for a blessing at the bus stop where their friend and classmate was fatally stabbed on Thursday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON

The death led to a flood of concern from both parents and school children, who said the hub had become a hotbed of violence, with school pupils meeting there for pre-arranged fights.

Many questioned how the situation had got so out of hand right outside the city’s central police station.

Otago coastal area commander Inspector Marty Gray said police knew anti-social behaviour was an issue at the bus hub and were aware of the issues caused by a "convergence of people in one spot".

Darin Smith
Darin Smith

Police tried to be "at the right place, at the right time, with the right people".

Accordingly, staff had been working closely with the Dunedin City Council (DCC), the Otago Regional Council (ORC), the Ministry of Education, iwi and others to "suppress some of that activity".

How police operated in the area could change as a result of a forthcoming review of the approach between police and other agencies over how to make the area safe.

Additional CCTV cameras and security patrols had recently been introduced and police monitored and provided reassurance in the area.

"Security staff were working at the hub [on Thursday] and quickly intervened in this altercation," Insp Gray said.

He said the incident unfolded "very, very quickly". As soon as officers became aware, police were on the scene in one minute, providing medical aid to the victim and apprehending the offender.

With an investigation under way he was limited in what details of the incident he could provide.

He told media in a briefing at the station he understood it had been captured on CCTV.

Police did not know how the fatal altercation began, but the victim died of a single stab wound, Insp Gray said.

He urged members of the public who captured the incident on their smartphones to provide it to police.

Police worked hard with many other organisations to prevent this type of thing occurring and had seen a decline in some of the anti-social behaviour as a result of some of the interventions that had been put in place, he said.

"It’s unfortunate that events like this cause us to reset and re-think some of our priorities as we go forward. This is no different."

The nature of the crime was such that police were treating the stabbing as an isolated incident and there was no reason for the community to worry about a similar incident, he said.

"Anti-social behaviour was becoming an issue for us.

"That takes a lot of forms whether it’s bullying, or just teasing, or those sorts of things, but we are aware again of a convergence of people in one spot that attracts that sort of behaviour.

"We do have patrols actively walking around that area: youth teams are doing that, our response teams are doing that, our leadership is doing that. Unfortunately on this occasion we weren’t there at that time, but we were there that day."

Mr Radich told the Otago Daily Times yesterday morning his message to the community was that the bus hub was safe and security patrols recently brought in had improved the situation.

"The bus hub is safe and it will be safe and that this is very much, well, an isolated incident."

His comments were met with astonishment on social media, with one reader saying it showed a "total lack of insight".

Dunedin Student Council president Rohan O’Shea said the mayor’s comment was inaccurate.

"There are organisations doing nice work trying to make it safer, but I don’t think we’re at the point where we can say decisively that ‘yes, this is a safe environment’, because this is just the latest in a string of incidents."

Jules Radich.
Jules Radich.

He said for years, schools around Dunedin had been telling their pupils to avoid the bus hub "at all costs".

"I think that really says it all, that it’s not safe and it is a long-running issue."

Rohan said the bus hub was an area where pupils from all over the city congregated after school and pre-planned fights were common.

The student council had spoken with the DCC, ORC and police to work on making the area safer for pupils, but he was not sure whether there would ever be a complete solution.

"We’ve had a 13-year-old arrested and a 16-year-old die. That is insane and completely heartbreaking — I can’t imagine the pain both families are going through."

The New Zealand flag flies at half mast at Trinity Catholic College in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO:...
The New Zealand flag flies at half mast at Trinity Catholic College in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Mr Radich issued a statement late yesterday afternoon calling on the city to come together.

"These events will have impacts across our entire community — from the victim’s whānau and friends to the Trinity Catholic College staff and pupils, as well as those of other schools, and our Pasifika and wider Dunedin communities.

"The ripple effects of this event are being felt far and wide across our city. My heart goes out to everyone impacted, including the 13-year-old now before the courts.

"This is a disaster for everyone. We are all grieving."

Some readers told the ODT the security guards at the bus hub were ineffective and spent too much time chatting and acting "like teenagers" themselves.

In response, ORC chief executive Richard Saunders said the council had worked hard to establish an effective security presence at the bus hub.

There would be an increased security presence this weekend and next week.

Anyone with complaints about the service was encouraged to get in touch with the ORC.

When asked whether the security guards had de-escalation training, or any other specialised training, the council referred comment to the contractor, Allied Security.

Allied Security declined to comment.

In the Dunedin Youth Court yesterday, the 13-year-old boy charged with murder, whose name is suppressed, was remanded by Judge Michael Turner to appear in the High Court at Dunedin on June 11, where a bail application is likely to be made.


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