A young woman is trampled to death at a student party and everyone wants someone to blame. But who do we hold responsible when we are all guilty? Kirsty Johnston reports.
At the house where Sophia Crestani died, broken glass litters the road. Beer bottles lie strewn across the lawn. All the way up the concrete path to the student flat - known as The Manor - more glass crunches underfoot. At the door you can smell it, the sticky sweet smell of booze, oozing from the very pores of this 120-year-old home.
The whole place is steeped in alcohol, from the discarded clothing piled on the dilapidated balconies, to the hedge wedged with beer cans, right next to the flowers left in memory of Crestani, just 19, reportedly trampled to death amid a panicked swarm of students trying to escape an overcrowded party on Saturday night.
Parents of Sophia Crestani, teen killed at Dunedin party, ask for street clean-up to honour daughter
'Everyone is heartbroken' for Dunedin student party victim Sophia Crestani
Criminal nuisance charges will be part of police investigation into Dunedin student Sophie Crestani's death, legal experts say
Dunedin party death: Community in shock after Sophia Crestani dies at student house
"I think it's important to stress it's not clear there's a direct relationship between a risky drinking culture and this ghastly accident," says outgoing Dunedin mayor Dave Cull. "Overcrowding may have been more of a factor. I don't know." And then he sighs.
"But, we drink too much. And as the ad says, it's not the drinking, it's how we are drinking."
So far, the known facts of Sophia's death are these: She went to a house party with her friends. It was a farewell of sorts for The Manor, one of Dunedin's famous named flats, and a well-known party house. The party was held the week before the university wrapped for exams. It was billed to be huge, and so it was - with police estimating up to 600 people trying to cram into the house and grounds.
"It was like a school of fish moving around," one student said. "You didn't really have control over what was happening."
Even as people began to panic, witnesses said more drunken party-goers tried to push their way inside. People fell over. Sophia was one of those, trapped at the bottom of a six-person pile. When they finally cleared a path to her, it was too late. Emergency services were unable to revive the "lovely", dark-haired, maths and statistics student from Wellington, leaving her parents and identical twin sister "in the deep throes of grief''.
Publicly, no one - not the university, not the police, not the students - wants to discuss what led to the death, yet.
'We are grieving the loss of our beautiful daughter': Party victim's parents
Parents of teen killed at Dunedin party ask for street clean-up
Police arrived at wild party just in time to save lives: witness
"Everyone is pretty heartbroken," said one young woman while leaving flowers for her friend. "We feel so shaken. We just need some space."
Privately, however, everyone in Dunedin is angry. And like Cull, they are looking at our attitudes towards alcohol and again asking the question: Where did we go wrong?
The University of Otago has a long history of disorder associated with student drinking - couch-burning, riots - and in particular, with house parties. In 2016, a student was left paralysed after a balcony collapsed at a Six60 concert in notorious Castle St, and in 2012 a roof caved in at a Hyde St Keg party.
And despite moves by the university to improve student safety since the early 2000s, with the introduction of better pastoral care, a Code of Conduct and a Campus Watch security service, for example - a toxic drinking culture remains.
Part of the blame for that, it can be argued, lies with the university. Until the late 1990s, it marketed Otago as a party destination, capitalising on the "Scarfie" reputation to attract young students away from mum and dad and indulge in the freedom found on a residential campus.
That era brought the peak of public binge drinking, when bars such as the Captain Cook tavern sold $1 doubles and advertised all-day sessions, while others encouraged nudity or gave away free shots.
But as bad as that was, critics say the almost complete lack of bars in the student area now is worse.
In the past 10 years, liquor rules regulating minimum pricing at on-licences meant student pubs were no longer viable, because in a city where students talk in "alconomics" - the cheapest price per standard drink - cheap off-licences were always going to win.
So students pre-loaded instead of buying drinks, and then seven bars in the 1km radius near the university shut down. At the same time, a new BYO policy for restaurants was brought in, limiting dinner out as an option too.
"All of that has had unintended consequences in terms of driving students to house parties," said former Otago University Students Association president Francisco Hernandez. Where parties used to have 100 people, they now had 1000. Social media was also a driving force.
However Hernandez said the segregation of the students - who in their first and second years live almost exclusively in one suburb, North Dunedin - was also part of the picture.
Former students agreed, saying in retrospect the insular culture in areas like Castle St was disturbing, particularly the "hazing" that went along with the named flats, and the mob mentality created by living so closely together.
"Living on Castle St was like being in a drunken cult," one former student told the Herald.
Another noticed how even a few years out, watching hazing rituals via social media was shocking to her.
"I watched a Snapchat where hundreds of people were standing around watching boys spew into a rubbish bin and then being forced to drink it. And they're pissing on each other and they think that's normal? And I thought it was normal?" she said. "It's absolutely out of hand."
Lawyer and columnist Sasha Borissenko, an Otago alumna, said while it was easy to pick on Dunedin in particular, that kind of extreme drinking culture did not exist in a vacuum.
"It's pretty messed up, but you're 18, you don't know left from right. You think it's tradition - to live in a squalid house and drink in a tree until you pass out and fall out - like it's some kind of rite of passage. It's not, it's just macho bullshit," she said.
"But I think the problem is we all say it's the alcohol side of things but we're not questioning what leads to that behaviour."
Hernandez: "It's not fair to put all the blame on the students. They're a product of wider society. Which in New Zealand has a drinking issue."
Cull spent nine years as mayor trying to address that issue. As well as the change in BYO policy, which limits the amount of alcohol that can be taken to a restaurant, his council tried to bring in tough alcohol bylaws, restricting the number of off-licences in North Dunedin, and bringing forward their closing times. On both, the alcohol lobby fought hard, and the council was ultimately unsuccessful.
Cull has got to the point where the only way he thinks things will change is with higher off-licence prices, but that seems impossible.
"I would argue that what we've got is a regulatory system where corporate profit is put ahead of social wellbeing," he said.
"The corporates are allowed to sell it at the lowest price possible and we are not allowed to restrict it."
Even if the price was higher, however, things might not change.
Cull said it was possible that in the wake of this specific incident the student body might decide to limit numbers at house parties to stay safe. Sophia's year might change their habits, in honour of their friend. But that would not address the culture the next year, or the wider alcohol issues.
"I think the biggest context here is not the drinking culture of students, not the drinking culture of young people, it's the drinking culture of New Zealand," he said.
"New Zealand has a dangerous relationship with alcohol."