Quiet drinks among friends turned into a social media-fuelled demolition party that saw an abandoned red-zone house trashed and a group of youths in trouble with the police.
Holes were kicked in walls and windows were smashed at the Avondale home as up to 80 youths ran riot on Saturday night, frightening residents in nearby green-zoned properties.
A concerned neighbour noticed people at the Chardale St house, which had been vacant since May 31.
He called the former owner, who did not know his son had organised a party, and was instructed to phone the police.
When they arrived, many of the youths, mostly aged 15 and 16, fled into the night. Up to 10 of them could be dealt with by police.
The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), which now owns the property, said it was the first party at an abandoned red-zone home it had been made aware of.
Cera staff inspected the house yesterday and found "extensive damage which is not consistent with earthquake damage".
It would wait until police finished their investigation before deciding whether to take further action.
Cera chief executive Roger Sutton said damage to red-zone properties was taken extremely seriously. The Crown would try to recoup as much as possible of a house's value through insurance.
The houses could also be recycled or removed and not necessarily demolished, he said.
"There is no justification for members of the public to have a free-for-all to write homes off just because they are no longer owned by private citizens," he said.
The party was organised by the former owner's 16-year-old son, who cannot be named because of his age.
He was drinking there with a "handful" of friends, his father said, but left when the situation deteriorated and did not cause any damage.
"What started out as ... a couple of quiet ones turned into something pretty awful, but that was never, never the intention clearly - he's not that sort of kid," the teenager's father said.
His son and some friends fronted up the next day to clean up the mess and apologise to neighbours and were nearly reduced to tears when they saw the damage to the property.
"Going back and seeing a house that was my family home for 10 years was heartbreaking," he said.
"I was mortified, and so was my wife."
The incident highlighted the dangers of social media and how quickly a party could go viral, he said.
"Apparently the numbers were quite scary,'' he said.
"Clearly one person texted another and next minute there's [up to 80] riotous, drunk teenagers [there]. They clearly egg each other on and there's a bit of pack mentality."
Residents in the street told The Press they were frightened as teenagers went down the street in droves.
"There was that many of them, and they were breaking things," a couple, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.
Sergeant Bevan Seal said he had spoken to the former owner's son, who was devastated by what had happened.
"He just wanted to have a few young fellas around and have a couple of drinks and say goodbye to the house, but it quickly got out of control,'' Seal said.
"He's pretty mortified about what has happened."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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