Police charge 67 after Undie 500 'madness'

BY TOM FITZSIMONS
Last updated 14:48 14/09/2009

Undie 500 chaos in Dunedin

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Police have charged 67 people after the Undie 500 rally deteriorated into a weekend of violence in Dunedin.

Charges include breaching the temporary liquor ban, disorderly behaviour, obstruction and wilfully setting fire to property.

Most of those charged will appear in the Dunedin District Court on Thursday and Friday, with three appearing tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Key has called the chaotic aftermath of the rally in Dunedin "madness", saying some of the alleged rioters had blighted their lives.

Scores of people were arrested while police dispersed mobs of around 600 drunken students gathering on Saturday and Sunday nights on Castle St.

Some students were likely to graduate with criminal convictions, which was a "waste of their futures", Mr Key said.

"They have had plenty of warning. This is just a sort of organised chaos down there," he told TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

The annual event, organised by Canterbury University engineering students, involves a pub crawl from Christchurch to Dunedin, in cars worth under $500.

About 90 percent of those arrested were Otago University students.

Dunedin's mayor has called for the rally to be banned, but some students say police over-reacted and they plan to complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Police in riot gear ran out of pepper spray as they battled to control the crowds. Chants of "Let's start a riot", "F... the police," and "Scarfies on the piss" rang out.

Otago student Emma Newman said she was in "excruciating pain" after being pepper-sprayed at her front door.

"I didn't say anything. I didn't throw anything. And I didn't light anything," she told 3News.

Fellow student Jeremy Perkins said he was blinded by the spray.

"To be honest, I would have preferred a good old-fashioned batoning."

Inspector Dave Campbell said that, despite promises of better behaviour from students, "nothing has changed".

Mr Chin said the rally, "which is basically fuelled around alcohol", was not welcome in the city and should be cancelled. Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson has backed the call.

But Otago University Student Association president Edwin Darlow said the mayor was sticking his head in the sand.

"The issue here is not about supporting or opposing the Undie 500, because ... we can't stop people coming to Dunedin."

Instead, the council should support alternative events on that weekend.

University of Canterbury vice-chancellor Rod Carr said students acting illegally could face expulsion.

"We expect our students to follow the laws of the land, and we support the police in taking action against any student involved in criminal behaviour."

But Carl Shrimpton, president of the Canterbury University Engineering Society, which organises the rally, said the problems were mainly caused by Otago students.

"The Undie 500 is used as an excuse and it shows the culture down here," he said. "Certainly, there is a culture ... of burning things and drinking."

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