Student's death sparks mayor's assurance

By Andrew Koubaridis

Tarun Asthana, felled by a punch in downtown Auckland on Saturday, died 
yesterday after his life support was switched off. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Tarun Asthana, felled by a punch in downtown Auckland on Saturday, died yesterday after his life support was switched off. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says there has been progress in making central Auckland streets safer, but admits more work needs to be done to prevent deaths like that of Auckland student Tarun Asthana.

Mr Asthana, 25, died in hospital yesterday with his family at his side. He had been on life support since early Saturday morning when he suffered a head injury after he fell heavily on to the pavement.

He had just been in an altercation with another man, whom police have charged with assault. Naval rating Grenville David McFarland, of Mt Roskill, 27, appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday and was bailed until November 15. Police say more serious charges are likely.

Grenville David McFarland appears in court yesterday  over the attack on Tarun  Asthana. Photo / Dean Purcell
Grenville David McFarland appears in court yesterday over the attack on Tarun Asthana. Photo / Dean Purcell

The navy said it was supporting police with their investigation but could not comment while the case was before the courts.

Mr Brown said Mr Asthana's death was a tragedy and showed that "not a lot of good" happened at 5am. By that time people had generally been drinking alcohol for several hours.

"I wouldn't want to be the bus, train or ferry drivers who more often than not have to deal with some pretty out-of-it people," the mayor said.

There were some areas of the central business district, such as Karangahape Rd, where problems remained, he said.

However he told the Herald the death had to be viewed in the context of an overall decrease in crime. Progress was being made through a combination of things, including having a mobile accident and emergency unit operating, better queue control and sharing of CCTV cameras.

But sometimes it wasn't enough.

Auckland city police prevention manager Inspector Gary Davey said: "From the police perspective it's quite clear that the 24-hour drinking regime isn't working and that the community seems to be suffering harm as a result."

He said the assaults would continue if the hours of drinking in the central city weren't reduced.

Next month, new legislation comes into effect stopping bars from opening beyond 4am, but the local alcohol policy provided an opportunity to either reduce or extend those hours.

"Police believe the whole object of the act is to reduce harm and encourage responsible drinking. That's why we want to see a harm minimisation approach and close the bars at 3am.

"What happens is the intoxication levels of people increases as the night wears on so the people who are left in town at 3, 4 and 5am are heavily intoxicated and [chances are] they become an offender or a victim," Mr Davey said.

- additional reporting: Heather McCracken

One punch

June 2011: Auckland man Trevor Kaukau received serious brain injuries when he was hit once, fell backwards and struck his head on Karangahape Rd.

August 2011: Hutt Valley man Felipo Sipaia died after he was punched in the head during a confrontation. He fell, hit his head and never regained consciousness.

October 2011: Billy Dawson, 34, died in hospital from severe head injuries after being punched once in the face outside a bar in Auckland's Viaduct Harbour. Kit Murray was later sentenced to five years' jail for manslaughter.

- NZ Herald

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