There was a riot in Dunedin over the weekend. I understand that it was mostly confined to a couple of blocks next to the university, in an area densely occupied with studends. In Dunedin the area is known as Scarfieland; a Scarfie is a student at the University of Otago. The name appears to come from the students wearing colourful scarves to keep warm in Dunedin’s winter. It is now a historical name, and any scarves, if they are worn, are now in Otago’s provincial colours of blue and gold, according to Wikipedia. Or they are those dinky Arabic scarves which are so popular at the moment.

The riot happened over the hill from me, across the Botanical Gardens. I didn’t hear it, and it didn’t impact on me at all. This would have to be the fourth time this has happened in the years I have lived in Dunedin, of and on, about 15 years. None of them have affected me personally. By the language used on national television people outside of Dunedin would think that there is civil unrest going on in the deep south. It is simply untrue. (Except in the opinion that national politics has nothing to do with what is going on in our region, but there you are!)

The trigger again was the Undie 500 when Engineering Students from Christchurch have a rally down to Dunedin in cheap cars bought especially for the ride and decorated, get pissed, and go home again. 500-800 People gathered on Castle Street. They set fires and burnt furniture, and made a lot of noise much to the nuisance of older residents. No cars were set on fire this time. The police intervened in full riot gear. They were heavy-handed, breaking into houses and flats to maintain control. I expect that there will be reports of police abuse. At least one young women is making a complaint because she was pepper-sprayed, more or less, for answering the door. No cars were set alight this time at least.

The organisers of the rally attempted to co-ordinate with city council. They wanted space to be made at a local sports ground, or a sports centre in south Dunedin, for a musical event. They were rebuffed. As far as the city council is concerned this was just delaying the inevitable. It wants the event to be crushed and extinct. Their opinion is if Cantabrian students should keep their rally in Cantabury and have a barbeque in Cathedral Square when they get back. Dunedin local authorities are determined to make this an unpleasant affair for all involved. High-jinks and darker spirits are colluding together, helped by the binge culture that has become the norm among students. The majority of students arrested in the rioting were inhabitants of Dunedin. It seems to me that the problem begins at home, and there is a lot of sensible talking to be done by responsible people before this happens again. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening and it’s just a matter of time before something equally stupid happens again. Because it’s a rush for those involved! What a load of nonsense!