July 27 2017, updated 5:09am

Rocky road ahead for Undie 500

Last updated 12:01 18/09/2009
JOHN COSGROVE/Fairfax Media Zoom
TACKLED: Police deal with students during the Undie 500 rally in Dunedin.

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Residents beware - the Undie 500 could be heading to a town near you.

The Engineering Society of Canterbury (Ensoc) announced yesterday it would not run the infamous Undie 500, which ended in two nights of rioting last weekend, to Dunedin "in the foreseeable future".

Ensoc President Carl Shrimpton said the student group was committed to running another event next year and did not rule out taking it to other towns.

Police, after reviewing charges against those arrested after this year's Undie 500 have withdrawn two charges due to a lack of evidence. They say 61 people will - or have - now appear in court.

Next week, police will review video footage to see if further arrests are likely.

Of those already charged, 27 claim to be from Otago University, eight from Canterbury University, three from Lincoln University, one from Victoria University, three from Otago Polytechnic and two from Telford Rural Polytechnic.

Police say 18 people who aren't tertiary students face charges. Six are unemployed, two are builders and three are high school students. There is also a trade assistant, a shearer, a mill hand, a landscape gardener, a forestry worker and a retailer.

The charges faced are:

- 23 counts of disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence.

- 19 counts of breaching the liquor ban.

- 13 counts of obstructing police.

- Three counts of offensive language.

- Three counts of willfully breaking glass.

- One count of offensive behaviour.

Mayors throughout the South Island had mixed reactions to the possibility of the Undie 500 turning up on their doorstep next year.

Westland Mayor Maureen Pugh said if it was well managed the event would be welcome in Hokitika.

"Provided they package their trip and don't come here with the intention of trashing the place, they will be welcomed with open arms," she said.

However, the message from Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, of Greymouth, was: "Don't come here".

"It gave Dunedin a bad reputation and if they came here it would be the same thing.

"For them to think they can shift the goalposts to another town is unacceptable."

Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton said Ensoc had approached the council a few years ago about taking the event to Oamaru.

"Our response then is the same as our response now, that we see them as unacceptable, confrontational and even dangerous to the police and to the public, and we find their behaviour offensive."

Nelson Deputy Mayor Rachel Reese said bringing the Undie 500 to Nelson would be "rather unwise".

Many Nelson youngsters attended Canterbury University to study engineering and their mothers were likely to be waiting "grumpily" for them if they turned up in a car rally.

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Dunedin police area commander Dave Campbell said the cancellation was "absolutely fantastic" news.

"I think they have finally realised it's not only a disaster for Dunedin, it's also a disaster for those involved and particularly those who ended up getting arrested."

When asked what advice he would give another police commander if they were expecting the Undie 500 in their town, he replied: "I would probably say, 'you poor bugger."'

It could be successful in another area if the focus was not solely on "booze".

"The problem is the numbers and also probably the history of the event where it seems each year now people want to outdo themselves."

Canterbury University vice-chancellor Rod Carr said Ensoc had made a wise decision.

The university supported that decision.

He had been fielding emails from around the country and overseas from people who remembered the event as enjoyable and safe and one of the highlights of their university years.

"While holding such an event is entirely legal and the university has no power to ban it, the risks to innocent bystanders even of mere association do not justify the efforts of Ensoc, university staff and the police who sought to keep the event safe and free from violence," he said.

Alcohol helpline general manager Paul Rout told a Law Commission alcohol law change hearing in Christchurch yesterday that at least five of the people arrested in Undie 500 riots had called his service for help.

"They are hurting. They recognise they have a problem which is a good thing," Rout said.

- The Press

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