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Commonwealth Games


Students criticise council response to Undie 500

Sunday 13 Sep 2009 7:29p.m.

Students criticise council response to Undie 500
The effects of rioting drunk students causing mayhem in Dunedin over the weekend could have been lessened if the Dunedin City Council had allowed for events to be organised for them, a student group says.

The Undie 500 car rally attracted the usual disorder by hundreds of students.

For two nights, police in riot gear faced off against mobs numbering about 600 in North Dunedin's Castle Street area. Students lit fires and pelted police with bottles.

Police arrested between 50 and 60 people last night and 20 on Friday night. The weekend's violence and disorder led to the highest number of arrests in recent years.

About 90 percent of those arrested were from Dunedin.

The annual Undie 500 event, organised by Canterbury University engineering students, involves a pub crawl from Christchurch to Dunedin, in cars worth under $500.

Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin has said he wants the event to be cancelled.

But Otago University Student Association (OUSA) president Edwin Darlow told NZPA the mayor was "sticking his head in the sand" over the issue.

"The issue here is not about supporting or opposing the Undie 500, because at the end of the day we can't stop people coming to Dunedin," he said.

"The issue here is how the city can best manage the situation once those people are here."

OUSA and the Canterbury engineering students had tried to organise events, including a Feelers concert for the students, but the council had blocked them, Mr Darlow said.

"So that people, instead of being in a managed situation, would be out on the street instead, which I simply cannot comprehend.

"Simply saying `We don't want you to come' is not going to make the problem go away. And, unfortunately, that's been the attitude of Peter Chin."

Mr Darlow did not limit his criticism to the mayor, saying the students had some serious questions to answer over their behaviour.

"There's something seriously wrong with the mentality of some of the young people in this country.

"Anyone who gets a kick out of throwing a glass bottle at people (is) in need of some serious help as far as I'm concerned."

Last year's official Undie 500 was cancelled after rioting in the city resulted in 69 arrests the previous year. However, an unofficial version of the event still ran and 30 arrests were made.

Those arrested this weekend would be charged with breaching the temporary liquor ban, disorderly behaviour, obstruction and wilfully setting fire to property, and would appear in Dunedin District Court at the end of the week, Inspector Dave Campbell of Dunedin police said.

Despite promises of better behaviour from students, "nothing has changed".

"The event has once again shown that when large numbers of young adults gather and drink to excess, mass disorder is inevitable."

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