Dunedin police are upgrading charges against students caught up in the major disturbance in the university campus area over the weekend.
Sixty-nine people were arrested for disorderly behaviour but 21 of them have had their charges upgraded to the more serious crime of rioting, TV3 reported last night.
Canterbury University's annual Undie 500 motor run to Dunedin descended into mayhem after couches were burned, bottles thrown at police and firefighters and more than $12,000 in damage was caused to emergency equipment. Police were combing through video footage to see if any other charges could be laid.
The 69 students were originally due to appear in Dunedin District Court tomorrow on disorderly behaviour charges. However, each case was being reviewed by police and some might have a charge of rioting added, emergency response commander Inspector Alastair Dickie said.
Police were applying to have the alleged offenders' court dates put back so they could investigate further and review video footage of the events, he said.
Rioting is a crime under the Crimes Act 1961 and is punishable by up to two years in prison.
He said that in the past students had been discharged without conviction. He hoped to get the support of Otago and Canterbury universities in prosecuting the students.
Firefighters have written to Otago vice-chancellor David Skegg calling for future events to be banned. Professor Skegg said the university would take appropriate action under its new disciplinary regulations, which incorporated the code of student conduct introduced this year.
The Otago Polytechnic Students' Association yesterday called for the Undie 500 to be ended voluntarily. Association vice-president Ryan Ward said students needed to understand there was a line, and this event consistently it.