Police are happy with behaviour at the Dunedin Craft Beer & Food Festival earlier this month despite the event generating international headlines after two assaults — one inside the venue, one outside.

Festival director Jason Schroeder felt the bad publicity stemmed from inaccurate reporting on the incidents from the Otago Daily Times. The ODT story was picked up by NewstalkZB and the New Zealand Herald under a story-sharing agreement, and from there it was picked up by global online magazine Drinks Business.

Comments by police and venue management sent to Pursuit of Hoppiness were supportive of the November 3-4 event, which is run by the Otago University Students Association (OUSA).

Senior Sergeant Anthony Bond of Dunedin Central Police said police were happy with the event, adding that the assault inside the venue was “a random and isolated assault that does not reflect the behaviour of the other patrons at the event”.

He added: “Police are happy with the way that the event is run and managed, and have a great relationship with organisers, and are not concerned with the general behaviour of the attendees, and this has been reflected in its 11-year history.” 

His colleague Sgt Steven Jones, from Alcohol Harm Prevention, said from a licensing perspective the event was well-managed.

“From a licensing point of view, the agencies regard OUSA and DVML very highly for their professionalism and high standards when it comes to events, particularly Beerfest. Furthermore, we value our partnerships when it comes to alcohol harm minimisation in the local community,” Jones said.

“It is simply the nature of the beast that some issues are going to arise at large scale events where alcohol is being served. Having personally worked at the event and being involved in the preplanning, I can say the majority of the patrons were well behaved and enjoyed themselves, and the event was very well managed.”

The stadium is run by Dunedin Venues Management Ltd, and their chief executive Terry Davies said they “are confident that OUSA have taken all necessary health and safety measures to ensure the safety of everyone who attends and is involved in the event.

“Despite the disappointing and concerning incident that occurred during this year’s festival, we strongly believe that it was an isolated occurrence and does not reflect the overall positive behaviour of the attendees or the successful management of the event.”

Schroeder said the first assault happened outside Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday. It involved four men who had previously been removed from the venue.

Schroeder said the four men were identified as likely to cause trouble and were removed through four separate exits. “But they managed to find each other again outside and continued an argument that became aggressive, and it turned nasty.”

One man was taken to hospital, three others were arrested and one was charged with assault.  

The second incident, on Saturday, involved a worker at the venue being picked up and dropped on his head. He was hospitalised and suffered concussion. A 20-year-old was charged with assault and intent to injure.

This happened at the site of “inflatable jousting” game. Schroeder said the incident happened as the inflatable matting was being deflated. The assailant picked up the worker, possibly thinking the inflatable area was still in operation. It wasn’t. Schroeder says police told him alcohol wasn’t a factor.

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“We don’t want to diminish what happened at all but the Saturday incident wasn’t intox-related.”

Schroeder said a Messenger chat set up with vendors had proved effective. It allowed vendors to identifying people they were worried about and event management could step in and take action such as freezing the wristband used for payment, so the person could only get food for an hour.

Schroeder did concede that the 2022 festival suffered from a high level of drunkenness, mainly because there had been too many spirits vendors.

As a result, they took measures this year to reduce the number of spirits vendors, and raised the fees for those who were doing so.

“Last year, it was the first event back after having to cancel for Covid, and the first large event in Dunedin for 18 months. There was an increase in intoxification and a lot of that was put down to pent-up excitement.

“But what we did notice was that the number of vendors selling spirits had increased on previous years. That was on us. In an effort to have more vendors we allowed in too many that weren’t craft beer.

“This year we reduced the numbers of vendors selling spirit-based drinks and increased the cost for them in order to keep craft beer as our priority.

“We never want the event to turn into the rugby sevens, or other events where intoxication became the reason for the event to no longer exist.”

The Hamilton Great Kiwi Beer Festival was canned after the 2021 event because police and health authorities were unhappy at the level of drunkenness, which they attributed to the large volume of spirits sold, including by breweries.