Death at bus hub ‘tragic’

Tragic location . . . The site of the incident at the Dunedin bus hub has become a solemn...
Tragic location . . . The site of the incident at the Dunedin bus hub has become a solemn memorial. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON.
The death of a 16-year-old boy at the Dunedin bus hub last week sent shockwaves through the city. Many visited the site where Enere McLaren-Taana was allegedly stabbed by a 13-year-old boy. The Star reporter Simon Henderson speaks to a local youth leader about the tragedy. 

Flowers, messages of love, and balloons have appeared at the site of an altercation that led to the death of a young boy last week.

Many people visited the location over the last few days, with some young people sitting in silent reflection by the floral tributes, which were cordoned off by garish traffic cones.

Dunedin Police said a teenager had been charged with murder and appeared in the Dunedin Youth Court last week. The incident, which occurred just after 3pm on May 23, involved an altercation between the victim and offender.

The victim was transported to Dunedin Hospital in a serious condition and died a short time later.

Police are still working to establish the circumstances leading up to the incident but confirmed they had recovered a knife from the scene.

As details emerge of the tragedy, joint Dunedin Student Council presidents Rohan O’Shea and Alice Johnston, both 17, said the attack in the bus hub was "incredibly tragic".

Rohan said their hearts went out to the victim’s family.

"We must acknowledge that we need to do better to keep our young people safe.

"No student should be unsafe on their way to or from school."

Rohan said this was the latest in a string of violent incidents at the bus hub.

"We had that 15-year-old boy assaulted a handful of weeks back.

It is simply just not getting any better, and this is the most regrettable incident I think that Dunedin has had in a while, because we have a young life taken right before our eyes who is just trying to make his way home from school.

"I don’t think we could ever have imagined that a parent in Dunedin would farewell their child in the morning and then not see them again because they died on their way home."

Rohan said the Dunedin Student Council had raised concerns that the bus hub was not safe for pupils and had met local government representatives, as well as New Zealand Police.

"I will say the response has generally been pretty good and acknowledging that at the very least there is room to do better.

"We actively need to be trying to put measures in place to make it safer."

Enere McLaren-Taana
Enere McLaren-Taana
It was a "well-known issue" among pupils that the bus hub was problematic and dangerous.

"This is highlighted by the fact that our schools have been telling students to avoid the bus hub at all costs, essentially."

Rohan said it was important to work to find the root cause of problematic violence, which had been seen in other cities such as Auckland.

"What is causing students to become disconnected to the point where they believe that this is the response that they are going to take?

"And honestly, I don’t know how long that process is going to take, because we are dealing with deep-rooted issues.

"Like in what world is a 13-year-old charged with murder?"

The Dunedin Student Council joined calls to respect the privacy of both families who were going through "unbearable hurt" at this time, Rohan said.

In a statement, Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said a new multi-agency working group will be dedicated to changing the culture of behaviour and improving safety at Dunedin’s Bus Hub.

"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 and representatives from the Dunedin City Council, Otago Regional Council and Police met on Monday and agreed to establish the new group.

The terms of reference are now being drafted and it will seek to ensure schools, bus users and the wider community are all represented.

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

Otago Regional Council chairwoman Gretchen Robertson said public safety at the bus 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."

It will be working with the Dunedin City Council, Police and other parties to review the steps already taken, and any new initiatives that could help, over the coming days and weeks, she said.

"It will also be important to look at how we can involve young people, school communities, and the wider community to help change behaviour at the hub."

The regional council’s increased security presence at the bus hub will continue, alongside a beefed-up police presence, and Bus Stop B will remain closed until further notice, as a mark of respect.

"We acknowledge the outpouring of love and sympathy for the family and friends of the young person who tragically died and realise that an incident of this magnitude impacts public confidence."

Police Otago Coastal Area Commander Inspector Marty Gray said it wanted to work with all parties to improve safety at the bus hub.

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

The scene examination was completed on Friday and several inquiries were under way.

Police have set up a secure portal at where people can anonymously upload any video and photographs of the altercation last week that led to the death of the 16-year-old.

Information can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111, or by contacting Police on 105 quoting the file number 240523/3321.