23 Mar 2015

Police rebuke student party organisers

5:09 am on 23 March 2015

Police in Dunedin have labeled the annual Hyde Street student party unsafe, after what they say was a spate of incidents including the shattering of an ambulance's windscreen.

Despite those concerns, the student union and Otago University have described partygoers as generally well behaved, and Saturday's event as one of the best in years.

A St John New Zealand ambulance

Photo: ST JOHN NZ

St John spokesman Ian Henderson said the lone female paramedic driving the ambulance was covered in shards of glass when a man, who had been seen damaging other cars, leapt onto the vehicle's bonnet.

"She was very shaken by what's happened but she was also very angry, I think because, you know, she found it very difficult to believe somebody would actually do something like this."

Mr Henderson said questions had to be asked about the long term future of the party, which involved about 4000 students and large amounts of alcohol.

"Whether it's a good thing or not, I think that's up for the university to discuss with the Students' Association and they need to look at whether it's something that needs to carry on."

As of last night, police were still looking for the man who jumped on the ambulance.

Twelve people were arrested during the daytime party for offences including assaulting security staff, fighting and offensive behaviour.

Police declined to comment but Inspector Mel Aitken from Dunedin released a strongly worded rebuke of the party organisers.

"The 2015 Hyde Street event is far from being what police deem a safe event following a spate of incidents involving the excessive consumption of alcohol.

"Despite the best efforts of organising staff to create an enjoyable occasion for students, the level of alcohol related harm and the risk to public safety still remains too high."

St John staff treated about 40 students for minor injuries and seven were admitted to hospital, although none with serious problems.

Limit on numbers

Student union president Paul Hunt said for the third year running they sold tickets to the party to try to place a limit on numbers, banned glass and provided food and security.

He said given it was not possible to prevent the party, that was the best approach.

"It's not possible to stop it happening, it's in a private residence and what we do is work with the private residents in order to ensure they understand their responsibilities as well as paying for safety measures to be in place. So what it is is harm minimisation," he said.

The student union has the backing of the university. In a statement, vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne, who attended the event, said most of the students were well behaved.

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of OUSA and dozens of volunteers, a few partygoers caused problems. I remain concerned about the problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption which will not change until we address New Zealand's permissive laws regarding purchase age, price, access."

Professor Hayne said if the man who jumped on the ambulance turned out to be a student, he would face disciplinary action and could be expelled from the university.

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