• Neighbours Day in Ōtepoti and the Hyde St Keg Party

last modified January 21, 2013 by strypey


Danyl Strype comments on media hypocrisy, and establishment doubt standards, in the response to an annual street party in the student area of North Dunedin.

"Spotlight on 'crazy' key party" shrieked the front page of the Otago
Daily Times, headlining an article claiming 10,000 people would attend
Hyde St on Sunday. Their intrepid investigative journalists sourced
this figure on... FaceBook (I wonder if the next election will see
them publishing polls based on how many people have "liked" each
party's website?), and predictably, it turned out to be somewhat
exaggerated. In paragraph two the hysterical hyperbole continued, with
shock-horror revelations that Hyde St has "been marred by
glass-related injuries, excessive drinking and fires". We're not
talking about a car bombing here. Yes, it's a big party, and nobody is
really in charge, and accidents happen, but urban warfare it is not.

Meanwhile, anyone who bothered to skim through the latest issue of our
free local paper the Star (also published by ODT owners AlliedPress)
might have seen the article "Good Excuse to Meet Neighbours", with the
photo of the lovely old dears organising the Kirkcaldy St Neighbours
Day Barbecue. Seeing the policeman on the far right of the photo, I
couldn't help but note the irony; community gatherings in Kirkcaldy St
are encouraged and supported by the boys in blue, while in North
Dunedin, a traditional annual community gathering in Hyde St is
threatened with being shut down.

As any kiwi emigrant running a Neighbourhood Day BBQ in a Muslim
country will soon discover as they try to hand out pork sizzlers,
community-building only works when it fits with the culture of the
community you're trying to build. If the population of North Dunedin
were predominantly Maori, a neighbourhood mixer might include a hangi,
and a boil-up and some rewana bread, maybe kicked off with a powhiri.
There might be wero, and kapa haka performances, including
scantily-clad men yelling and menacing the crowd with chest-slapping
and naked tongues. All things most of the mainstream population of
Dunedin would be very uncomfortable with, but I bet my balls nobody
would be trying to have the event shut down, and they'd be tripping
balls if they did.

As it happens, the majority population of North Dunedin are not Māori.
Neither are they retired people, or parents with young families. They
are not excited by the tea and scones monoculture of the city fathers,
nor the vegan champagne breakfast of well-meaning, middle-class,
soccer Mums (no disrespect to vegans, middle-class people, soccer fans
or Mums - I'm at least 2 out of 4 of these, maybe 3 - but the point
remains). For better or for worse, uni students like to drink. It's
what they do together. Informal events like the keg party harness this
to mix newly arrived students into the cocktail of North Dunedin, and
remix returning students, leaving them perhaps shaken but hopefully
not stirred.

As it turned out, Sunday's party went pretty well. There were no piles
of steaming twisted wreckage, no planes hitting buildings, and no
controlled demolitions. The one *uncontrolled* demolition was probably
like the demolition of Mojo; a case of an aging structure, unable to
survive in its urban ecosystem, facing the music of natural selection.

As for the landlords bemoaning the damage to their beloved rental
hovels, cry me a fucking river. Make your tenants pay for the damage
if you must, that's what that 2 weeks rent stashed at Tenancy Services
is for, but get real. You can't rent ancient, decaying houses to
students at $100 a room - houses that some of you wouldn't let your
dog live in - and then cry foul at a bit of collateral damage from a
student party. Until you bring your entire stock of rental housing up
to a standard you would live in yourselves, make like the predatory
cocks you are, and harden the fuck up.

Honestly, I haven't seen an informal, self-organised community event
so actively smeared by the establishment press since Operation 8 and
Occupy. Like camping in the hills to go pig hunting, or protesting in
the Octagon, assembling in a public street and hosting parties in
houses you occupy are lawful activities, as is drinking (presuming you
are 18 or over). Any attempt to ban the Hyde St party is going to be
an uphill battle. Even if the DCC do impose a bylaw banning liquor in
the streets North Dunedin, it will face the same test as Occupy - do
the DCC have just cause to limit basic human rights of free assembly
and expression?

For better or for worse, drinking is one of the few things that unites
students across divides of race, province of origin, religion,
political leanings, and degree major. You can hike up fees, cut
allowances, put interest back on loans, and they're like the fabled
frog in the slowly heating pot. Privatise their student association
assets, they won't even notice. But any authority that threatens
students' right to mix with alcohol is waking the sleeping dragon, and
if you're a teetering, outdated bureaucracy relying on apathy and
silent consent for your legitimacy, that's not a good idea.

Originally published on Aotearoa.Indymedia.org (March, 2012)  

(CC-BY-SA)