Leavers' party turns to chaos

Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Teenagers from two exclusive boarding schools held a leavers' party so raucous that one needed her stomach pumped, another was treated for a suspected broken ankle, a third was caught drink-driving, and a car was trashed.

Police who called in to check on the party, organised by students from the state-integrated girls' school St Matthew's Collegiate in Masterton, say they found one adult supervising about 100 drunken teens, cannabis being smoked, and no food or water for revellers.

The hall's owner, Masterton District Council, said a wall was damaged and organisers, including a parent, failed to honour a host responsibility agreement.

Police said the fact that a cover-charge was collected would be investigated. They pointed out that more charges could have applied if the party had happened under new alcohol laws taking effect today.

A group of year 13 girls from St Matthew's hired Rangitumau Hall, 15 minutes' drive north of Masterton, on Saturday night for their school-leaving party. They were joined by boys from the state-integrated Anglican school Rathkeale College.

The schools' principals said they were "disappointed", but the incidents happened outside their jurisdiction, and parents should take more responsibility.

Both St Matthew's and Rathkeale charge total fees to boarders of more than $17,000 a year.

Ellie and Geoff Welch and their nine-month-old son Reid live near the hall and were kept up until 4am by loud music, people "shouting in the road" and car exhausts.

When they rang the council's noise control department, they were told: "That's gang-related, so we can't come out," Ellie Welch said.

"I had to stop my husband going over there, he was really angry."

A council spokesman said two private security contractors dealt with the complaint, and he did not know why Ellie Welch was told the party was gang-related.

Senior Sergeant Jymahl Glassey said police visited the party about 10.30pm, and again at 1am. Two party-goers were taken to Wairarapa Hospital, one to have her stomach pumped and the other with a suspected broken ankle, believed to have been caused by her being drunk.

Another party-goer was later stopped for drink-driving, he said.

Police later received a complaint of panel damage to a car at the party, and a council spokesman said a hall wall had a hole in it after being knocked.

The charging of a door-fee could "complicate things" for organisers, because it meant it was legally not a private gathering, he said.

If the party had been days later, adults could have been charged with supplying alcohol to minors without parental consent. Before a law change today, this was illegal only on licensed premises.

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Glassey said the teens were not "out of control", but police were concerned at the number of incidents and the potential for further harm. "There definitely was the recipe [for more]."

St Matthew's Collegiate acting principal Alison Penn said she was saddened by former students' involvement, but they were now outside her jurisdiction.

"I'm disappointed that this is coming back on the school . . . We have expectations on our students, as we do on our parents to support that."

Rathkeale principal William Kersten said what had happened was "totally unacceptable", but leavers were not the school's responsibility.

- The Dominion Post

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