High school students avoid bus hub after fatal stabbing

Outpourings of grief and love are filling the wall above a makeshift memorial to Enere McLaren...
Outpourings of grief and love are filling the wall above a makeshift memorial to Enere McLaren-Taana at the Dunedin bus hub. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A Dunedin secondary school principal says he has been advising students to avoid the city's bus hub for a while as the outpouring of grief for a teen who was fatally stabbed there continues.

Dunedin Secondary Principals’ Association chairman Mark Jones said there had been a history of issues at the hub and as principal of Bayfield High School he had advised students to avoid the area.

"They are best doing that," he said.

The comments were made after Dunedin boy Enere McLaren-Taana, 16, died after an attack at the city’s bus hub on Thursday afternoon.

A 13-year-old boy who is accused of his murder has been remanded in custody after appearing in the Youth Court on Friday, and is scheduled to appear in the High Court on June 11.

Police found a knife at the scene and are investigating the circumstances leading up to the stabbing.

Mr Jones said the added security and increased police patrolling of the area following Thursday’s incident would help, and he called on the community to also look out for its young people.

He said all schools would support their young people affected by the tragedy.

His comments were backed up by national bodies at the weekend who said violent incidents at bus and train stations involving young people seemed to be increasing.

National Secondary Principals Association president Vaughan Couillault told RNZ violence between students was becoming more acute, leading to serious injuries or worse.

Fights were often among groups and they were "not stopping when the person goes down".

Umbrella Wellbeing chief executive Dougal Sutherland said the use of a knife was shocking and concerning.

However, those types of incidents rarely happened in isolation, he said.

"There’s a lot of contextual implications that need to be taken into account, as well as the developmental level of a [young person].

"A lot of factors will have combined to produce this really terrible and tragic outcome."

The fears of schools about the safety at the bus hub were backed up by anecdotal evidence supplied to the ODT since Thursday.

Carrie van Rij said she intervened in a fight between two teenage boys outside the Dunedin Central Police Station when she was walking through the hub with three young children in June last year.

One of the boy’s faces was "completely busted up".

She went into the station and an officer took notes, but she was "shocked" by what she called his blase response to the incident.

"I said to the cop, ‘he’s right there, why don’t you go deal with him?’. And I just got a shrug from the officer, like it was over now and nothing could be done."

Enere McLaren-Taana
Enere McLaren-Taana
Other people preferred to remain to anonymous.

A Queen’s High School student at the bus hub on Friday said she and her friends had been scared by several incidents when using the hub.

In the middle of last year, a man saw the student with her friends and moved towards them screaming and yelling.

"He must have been drunk or on drugs. We just ran into the Look Sharp Store to get away."

The student said she was on a restricted driver’s licence and could not legally drive her younger sister home alone, but felt she had no other choice.

"I will be driving my little sister to and from school. There’s no other way for her to get home except use the bus.

"Mum doesn’t want that, I don’t want that and she doesn’t want that — I’m just willing to take any penalties I get with being pulled over."

The student said something needed to be done, because students should not be scared to commute to school.

"I hope something is done, because if it is not, then there will be a lot of parents having to drive their children into school, a lot of older siblings on their restricted [licence] driving their younger siblings to school, and you’ll get kids that are terrified of going to school, because they won’t know whether they are going to arrive home safely. "

Several people have reported violence.

One woman said her 14-year-old sister was terrified to go to the bus hub because she said people wanted to fight her and brought weapons (such as pocket knives) there.

Another woman said her 15-year-old son was punched in the face by an unknown person in an unprovoked attack in July last year going from school to football practice, while another said she ran into the police station last month to report a fight she saw in which a man punched a young person in the head. She was concerned no-one else seemed to be reacting to it.

The owner of the nearby store, Smiths Sports Shoes, Greg Lapwood, said he did not see Thursday’s incident, but heard the noise when emergency services arrived.

He said he thought it was another "poor kid getting beaten up again".

"Am I surprised? No. Disappointed? Yes."

When the Otago Regional Council decided it was going to develop the bus hub, it had reassured him it was going to be "the most amazing, beautiful space ever created in Dunedin", he said.

Security guards hired by the council had helped, but he did not think they could do much.

He had contacted the Dunedin City Council "many times", but they were not interested, he said.

He had also contacted multiple secondary schools to point out their students’ "misbehaviour", but said he was "brushed off" by them too, and had since given up.

The community continued to mark the loss of Enere over the weekend.

A wall of Community House near the site of the incident is filled with messages of love and grief alongside a Cook Islands flag.

"I’m sorry. You deserved sm [so much] better than this," one said. "Forever young, love you heaps," said another.

Enere’s rugby team, the Intermediate Otago Combined Sassenachs, cancelled their scheduled match against Dunstan High School on Saturday out of respect.

Otago Rugby and Otago Rugby League both paid tribute to the avid rugby player on their social media pages, saying their communities were "rocked" and expressing their sorrow for the teen’s family as they went through "this impossibly difficult time".

Police had no update on their investigation yesterday.