Neighbours take Victoria University to task over 'out-of-control' students

ROSS GIBLIN\Dominion Post

Residents near Victoria University halls of residence are fed up with the mess and noise from partying students.

Victoria University's booziest hall of residence has been identified, as neighbours band together in an effort to curb the behaviour of rowdy students.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show drunken behaviour at the university's halls of residence come with real dangers, with dozens ending up in hospital.

Ten residents the inner-city Katharine Jermyn Hall, which has been plagued by a string of alcohol-related incidents, have ended up at Wellington Hospital's emergency department this year, after drinking too much.

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Neighbours claim drunken Victoria University students from halls of residence left this mess in and around Kelburn Park.

Carnage at dawn

Good neighbours? Yeah right.

Park benches at Kelburn Park

An alcoholic raft, Kelburn Park

Hey, that's not a swimming pool

One second hand sofa. Needs work

Some may call it modern art. Neighbours of Kelburn Park would disagree

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Capital & Coast District Health Board figures show show the university's hostels combined have had 33 alcohol-related visits to the emergency department this year.

Meanwhile, the university's own figures show that it deals with alcohol infringements across its 10 halls more than every second day.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford said this figure was dropping over the years and, with 3000 students in the halls, the percentage causing problems was small.

Neighbours claim drunken Victoria University students from halls of residence left this mess in and around Kelburn Park.
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Neighbours claim drunken Victoria University students from halls of residence left this mess in and around Kelburn Park.

"The actions of a small group should not obscure the fact that the vast majority of our over 20,000 students are responsible, community-minded and behave considerately."

The university was already taking steps to address issues, he said. This included security patrols of Kelburn Park – a favourite evening drinking spot – as well as education around alcohol, and a van shuttling students from hostels to the city and back.

The university was reluctant to ban drinking in its halls because students of legal age could simply go elsewhere to drink, he said.

The university was offering to use taxpayer money to help fund double-glazing to soundproof badly affected houses.

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Katharine Jermyn Hall's emergency department record, which was higher than any other hall, was partly because it was the second largest hall, with 390 students.

It was reported in September that fewer university students were turning up drunk to Wellington Hospital's emergency department.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the council was fielding complaints from Kelburn and surrounds from residents concerned about the noise and partying, which was increasing as the weather improved and students stopped for study break.

"There's a certain amount of tradition in going partying at this time of the year," he said, comparing it to America's spring break and Australia's "schoolies" partying traditions.

Kelburn's Dennis Walton deals with the noise and mess each Wednesday – when some city bars have cut-price drinks – as well as Friday, and Saturday nights.

He is part of a loosely formed group of neighbours of Victoria University hostels, calling themselves Vic Neighbours, lobbying the university to do more to curb the drinking.

On many nights he saw hordes of students getting kicked out of Weir House at 10pm only to continue drinking till near midnight at a fountain in Kelburn Park beneath his home.

The crowds of up to 170 "screaming and yelling" students regularly left vomit, broken glass, and beer boxes as they moved on into the CBD.

Last weekend he spotted young children playing near broken glass left from the night before.

Vic Neighbours had kept track of the amount of complaints its 15 members had lodged with agencies including police and noise control.

At Kelburn Park, there were six in 2011 and 65 so far in 2015.

He believed parents were oblivious to teenagers' behaviour.

"If I was a parent there is no way I would send one of my kids to one of these Victoria University halls.

"They are totally out of control and Victoria has absolutely no intention of doing anything about it."

Nicola Koptisch, also from Vic Neighbours, sleeps in her house in The Terrace with ear plugs so she does not get woken up by the students making their way to town about midnight then heading back to their halls early the next morning.

Emergency department admissions by house so far this year:

Cumberland House and Education Hall: Four from a population of 335.

Everton (two halls): Two out of 189.

Joan Stevens Hall: One out of 242.

Katharine Jermyn: 10 out of 390.

Stafford House: Two out of 299.

Te Puni: Eight out of 398.

Victoria House: Three out of 180.

Weir House: Three out of 312.

Katharine Jermyn - a potted history of bad behaviour

The Boulcott St former office block opened as a hostel this year.

In April, a temporary alcohol ban was imposed after a party, promoted on Facebook as "graduation from Subway university", involved "excessive drinking" and unacceptable behaviour. It was one of three hostels earlier this year to impose bans.

In September, neighbour Alistair Craib complained of excessive noise from the hall and was told to leave before, he said, having cans of beer thrown at him from the eighth floor.

Earlier this month one person in the hall was arrested after a party that allegedly included students, one with a golf club, laying waste to an entire floor. Residents on level 8 had to be moved out as a result.

 - Stuff

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