'Many warnings' about bus hub behaviour before teen fatally stabbed

Police are ensuring they are more visible at the Dunedin bus hub following the death of Enere...
Police are ensuring they are more visible at the Dunedin bus hub following the death of Enere Mclaren-Taana last Thursday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Dunedin police were warned a rising tide of violence among the city’s teenagers could end in a death only an hour before a fatal stabbing at the bus hub.

It comes as Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich yesterday announced the formation of a multi-agency working group dedicated to changing the culture at the central city hub.

The father of a Dunedin teenager, whose son was assaulted at secondary school about a month ago, told the Otago Daily Times his wife called police at 2pm on Thursday last week to check on the status of the investigation into their son’s assault.

The police responded by saying they had been too busy to investigate her son’s assault and she replied by saying "someone is going to die if you guys don’t start taking this stuff seriously".

A little over an hour later Trinity Catholic College pupil Enere McLaren-Taana, 16, was stabbed to death.

The teenager’s father said police had now carried out an interview with the boy who they believe assaulted their son.

"But it took a death before they actually got around to doing anything.

"That’s what’s annoying me, they’re saying they got there within a minute, but they’ve had so many warnings."

He said the teenager who assaulted their son led a crew of followers, who he called his "soldiers", who had been intimidating other teenagers around the city, including at the bus hub.

They had complained about their son’s assault, including providing a voice recording of another teenager threatening to slit his throat, to police about a month ago and had got nowhere.

Their son was scared to go back to school and has not been back to the bus hub since.

"He’s been wanting to carry a knife and I said ‘no, you can’t do that’."

When he found out Enere had died, he felt terrible.

"It was almost like we were almost responsible for it.

"We were just trying to warn them because it was getting out of hand."

The father said another parent who had stopped a fight in the bus hub and was trying to make a complaint had also been "brushed aside" by police in the past.

"I think they thought it’s just normal teenage stuff."

The father felt security at the bus hub was ineffective and called for police presence between 3pm and 5pm on weekdays.

A police spokesman said there would be more of a police presence from 3pm to 5pm at the bus hub.

He said the safety of the community was not solely a police issue, and they worked closely with different agencies to ensure everyone in the community was safe.

"That important work continues."

Trinity Catholic College year 12 pupil Enere McLaren-Taana’s school ID photo from this year....
Trinity Catholic College year 12 pupil Enere McLaren-Taana’s school ID photo from this year. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The investigation into Enere’s death was ongoing and included determining the events that led up to the tragic incident.

Logan Park High School principal Peter Hills said pupils, parents and the wider community had all expressed concern about the bus hub as a gathering point.

"There is a desire from all the groups I have mentioned for students to be picked up from schools and taken home rather than a central location, but we can’t control the funding or the bus schedule.

"I imagine that will be a subject of conversation for all schools, and the regional council and the city council, and all the people interested in it."

In a statement yesterday, Mr Radich said he and representatives from the Dunedin City Council, Otago Regional Council and police met yesterday morning and agreed on a new group.

"While our focus as a city needs to remain on supporting Enere’s whānau as they prepare to farewell their loved one, we also need to do what we can to ensure this sort of tragedy isn’t repeated," Mr Radich said.

The terms of reference were being drafted and would seek to ensure schools, bus users, and the wider community were all represented.

The group would aim to develop short-, medium- and long-term options that could be implemented to improve the culture at the bus hub, and it would meet regularly.

"Last week’s terrible tragedy has sent shockwaves through our community, and we all need to come together to address the issues."

Otago Regional Council chairwoman Gretchen Robertson said public safety at the hub was a priority for all parties.

"This new group is exactly what we need to be doing — working together to tackle the safety issues there."

In the meantime there would be an increased security presence at the bus hub alongside a beefed-up police presence, and Bus Stop B would remain closed as a mark of respect.

"We are aware of issues at the hub and are working hard to support people with added security and presence."

Police Otago Coastal Area Commander Inspector Marty Gray said police wanted to work with all parties to improve safety.

"We’re looking forward to having an active role in the group and helping ensure everyone can use the bus hub with confidence."

Meanwhile, Ministry of Education Te Tai Runanga (south) leader Nancy Bell said it was in contact with 12 schools last week, as the impact of a traumatic event such as this could be far-reaching.

The ministry’s traumatic incidents teams could work alongside schools to support them in managing the incident safely — which included understanding the emotional and psychological impacts and the effects on how people behaved.

The ministry was providing some resources to Trinity Catholic College to increase pastoral support for pupils this week.