Kelburn residents are asking the University to seriously consider making Weir House alcohol free.
Documents obtained by Salient under the Official Information Act reveal many residents had begun the process of submitting an application for a liquor ban in Kelburn Park. According to Wellington City Council City Safety Advisor Emma McGill, the residents “had gathered several letters of support but needed more in terms of crime and harm resulting from drinking for the WCC to process further.”
Numerous complaints were made via email:
“VIC uni are completely out of control re their students on the park and they make life hell for the residents who live in the area. WCC staff spent hours cleaning up after last year.”
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“The fireworks, screaming, drinking, shooting @ each other with the fireworks went on each night until about 4am.”
“We were too fearful to let our baby grandson play on our own decking.”
“The fountain was left littered again last night, both and around it (a day or so after the Council had drained and cleaned it) with no effort at all from Weir House to clean it up.”
“Clearly the problem is deep seated and relates to the Halls alcohol culture these past six or so years.”
“Aside from the litter issue, we have been experiencing loud disorderly behaviour late at night. The root cause of all this is excessive alcohol consumption.”
“Maybe the time has arrived for Weir House (and Everton Hall if needs be) to become alcohol and intoxication free. The University now has plenty of other student accommodation where alcohol-fuelled rites of passage can be practised.”
Although the concerns have been ongoing over recent years, the University and the ever-reliable Dominion Post have been giving increased attention to the prospect of alcohol bans in light of similar complaints against other halls including Katherine Jermyn, Boulcott and Joan Stevens.
University campus services director Jenny Bentley has borne the brunt of many of the complaints. In response to the complaints, Bentley told residents that the University’s position is that “an alcohol ban in these halls would not solve the issues, and may even compound them.”
However, as reported by The Dominion Post last week, Katherine Jermyn and Joan Stevens Hall were as of last week under a total alcohol ban, while Boulcott’s has recently been lifted.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan also weighed in on the discussion. “I think it would be highly counterproductive to ban alcohol in Weir House as this would likely lead to more students drinking in the park rather than the supervised areas within the hall.”
“I would also note than from an intergenerational perspective—our first year students this year are drinking far less than our predecessors (there are stories reported from the 70s and earlier of Kelburn Park being literally covered in beer bottles and cans).”
Rachel Barrowman’s Victoria University of Wellington, 1899-1999: A History indicates that riotous behaviour at Weir is indeed traditional.
According to the author, in 1963 the New Zealand Truth exposed the then all-male Weir House “as a den of iniquity, a hotbed of squalor, vandalism, drunkenness and naked women in the showers.”
“In 1976 the Weirmen threw flour bombs and eggs, lit a fire in an upstairs room, flooded two floors with the fire hoses, and let off a smoke bomb which sent four residents to hospital.”
However, the University told Salient that it has no plans to make any of its halls alcohol free but acknowledged the responsibility Vic owed to surrounding neighbours, as well as student safety.
Longstanding history of obnoxiously pissed students aside, it remains to be seen what stance the University will take in resolving these residents’ issues and whether alcohol bans will actually be effective.