Student Riots

I feel compelled to comment on the recent ?riots? in Dunedin North. For those further afield this is an annual occurrence, a car rally from Christchurch, our northern city neighbour, in cars that cost less than 500 dollars which ends up in a massive street party where bonfires, usually in the form of couches being set alight, and general alcohol-fueled mayhem. The riot squad appears, people are arrested, baton-charged and this year pepper-sprayed. The media?s tone is always one of demonisation?of students and of alcohol generally. What gets me is no-one actually asks the basic question of why this behaviour occurs and why it is occurring now and not, say, when I was a student here. I?m of the opinion that there isn?t a great deal of difference from generation to generation fundamentally (and I?ve been teaching these students for over a decade here now and have amassed little to convince me otherwise). We all liked to party at that age and students have always liked to take an oppositional stance to authority (the Vietnam war when I was a kid, the Springbok tour when I was at Uni). We used to live in the heart of the student area in the 80s (101 Dundas street). We would be awoken by Selwyn College students drunkenly singing past our door in the small hours of the morning (that in one instance I apparently sat bolt upright, exclaimed they were the horn parts for ?Ash Grey? and promptly fell asleep again).
    Back then students were a minority. They were loathed as loafers, intellectuals and anti-tour?rugby-happiness wreckers by many of the same age that worked proper jobs. Student bashing was common. Maybe the role was 3 or 4 thousand back then. Now it is over 20 K. Students have gone from a barely tolerated minority to a vast majority (within their localised confines) in the space of 30 years and they sense the power they hold in that.
    How/why did this increase happen and where have we put them all? Well for decades land developers bought up flats, built second storeys on them, combined the ample back yards of four flats create the space to build more two-storeyed flats, bowled over anything that could accommodate too few and built something bigger. I?ve been told that North Dunedin is the most densely populated urban area in New Zealand and it very well might be. It is certainly likely to be the most monospecific (having just trawled the dictionary for an appropriate ?mono? word, meaning ?consisting of only one species??close enough). Anyway it seems a little rich for all this breast beating by the older generation (mine and older, for we have presided over the ghetto growing exponentially), when these generations have made piles of cash from rents and capital gains that have attended the student population rise (the first house I was domiciled in the student ghetto was bought and sold for under 25K, last time it was for sale the asking price was over 300K, the carpet on the floor is still the one that we laid back in 1982).
    It happens here because of the density and monospecificity of the student ghetto. Students in a flat in Kingsland Auckland might have neighbours from any walk of life. Here they don?t. The tendency to herd mentality is never far below the surface. Castle Street is now the equivalent of a patch, and lawlessness thrives when there?s safety in numbers (and we?re talking big numbers).
    Look, I?m not condoning anything and sooner or later someone will be seriously injured or killed so something needs to be done. But there are doubtless many muttering condemnation into their Otago Daily Times in the safety of their piles in Maori Hill or Bellknowes (posh suburbs) who have helped create this environment and profited handsomely in the process. Big bucks and a complete blindness to the likely consequences of ?let the market decide? urban planning are a big part of this equation. If we are going to demonise the students we should do it proportionately and also acknowledge the environmental factors?not of their creation?that have contributed.

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