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Critic reports on Lun…uh… Undie 500

While the official ‘Charity Drive’ component of this year’s Undie 500 went smoothly and resulted in a bonanza for Dunedin’s foodbanks, the ‘Use the Undie as an Excuse For a Riot’ component lived up to expectations and descended into drunken chaos.

This year’s event saw 67 people charged with various offences, and has led to the Engineering Society of Canterbury (ENSOC) officially deciding not to endorse an event next year.

Reports of bottle throwing and fires on Castle Street began around 9pm on 11 September, when most official participants were still in Oamaru or en-route to Dunedin. As the clock struck midnight, things got ugly. The closure of Gardies Tavern resulted in an influx of people onto the street. An hour later there were three considerable fires raging.

Sixty-seven people face charges ranging from disorderly behaviour and breach of liquor ban to wilful destruction of property. Eighty percent hailed from Otago, ten percent from Canterbury, and the other ten percent are not students.

Otago University Vice-Chancellor Sir David Skegg called the Undie 500 extremely disappointing, emphasising that the university, Dunedin City Council and the Dunedin Police wanted ENSOC to take the pub crawl elsewhere.

He remained confident that Otago’s 140-year-old history would not be wiped out by one weekend of chaos.

Dunedin Mayor Peter Chin echoed Skegg’s sentiments, and worried the violence would tarnish the reputation of Dunedin and the university.

But President of the Otago University Students’ Association Edwin Darlow lay blame for the chaos at the feet of a society that cultivated a strong youth drinking culture.

“There is something seriously wrong with the mentality of young people in this country.”

Vice-Chancellor Skegg said the small number of students who behaved in “a totally unacceptable way” will be dealt with under the university’s disciplinary powers, irrespective of whether they appear before the courts, and described the majority of Otago students as “hard-working, delightful young people.”

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