Otago's Hyde St keg party a 'success'

By Hamish McNeilly, Vaughan Elder

Emergency services, the University of Otago and the Otago University Students' Association (OUSA) have hailed Dunedin's Hyde St keg party as a well run event.

OUSA president Francisco Hernandez said its success would secure the scarfie tradition's future for years to come and was a nail in the coffin for the abandoned North Dunedin liquor ban.

After calling it a "test case" leading up to the event, Mr Hernandez said yesterday it had well and truly passed, in part due to extra controls - such as limiting numbers to about 3500 and barring non-students and first year students from buying tickets - it helped introduce.

Mr Hernandez said OUSA spent about $20,000 on running the party, roughly half of which was funded through ticket sales. The money went towards hiring 25 security guards, supplying food, and supporting "Are You OK" staff who helped intoxicated party-goers.

The money spent was "definitely worth it" given the potential consequences if it went wrong, he said.

Police recorded 21 arrests in connection with the party - compared with 18 at last year's party - for minor offences including offensive behaviour, trespass, disorder, unlawfully on property, wilful damage, and theft.

Dunedin acting area tactical response manager Acting Inspector Mel Aitken said 11 people arrested this year were students, with the remaining 10 being Dunedin-based tradesmen.

Two people were taken into custody for detox and would not be charged.

Fourteen people would receive pre-charge warnings, with five likely to be dealt with by the courts.

"For us it was about keeping the peace. We certainly weren't hands-on."

Police operated a one-way door policy from 2pm and the music was turned off at 5.30pm.

"After that it was just a normal Saturday night for Dunedin".

University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne, who spent the day on Hyde St, was pleased with how the event went, but said it was too early to speculate on the future of the party.

"In a perfect world, the students who attended the Hyde Street party would have spent Saturday in the library. But given that was never going to happen, I am very pleased with the way that students conducted themselves on the day.

"I am extremely grateful for the support that was provided by OUSA, Red Frogs, the Police, and St John's. That support, coupled with the reduced numbers, made all the difference," she said.

Southern District Health Board medical directorate general manager Sharon Mason said "compared to previous years it went more smoothly".

"There were still some intoxicated students but anecdotally the staff felt compared to previous years there was certainly some improvement."

Thirty-five St John staff and volunteers treated 60 patients from a temporary compound near the keg party.

St John southern region operations manager Doug Third said this year's patients were largely as a result of gross intoxication, a few minor lacerations and one person who fell off a roof and fractured an arm.

"There were people so grossly intoxicated they could not look after their own airways, so those people, around 15 of them, were kept for a couple of hours with a drip in their arm."

Fire Service East Otago assistant area commander Craig Geddes said while the day started off busy, with two early morning couch fires in the student quarter it was a relatively quiet Saturday.

"It was pretty much business as usual, and while it is disappointing to attend any couch fires, they were to be expected, given the event and the number of parties going on. But overall we are very happy."

- Additional reporting John Lewis

- Otago Daily Times

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