Naming student flats still reigns strong in Dunedin

(Dunedin Flat Names Project)
(Dunedin Flat Names Project)

Otago students are known for getting more than just a good education. 

The residential campus throws thousands of young people together, many living away from home for the first time. And they're keen to leave their mark.

Studentville is the suburb that's often the life of the party in Dunedin, and while many scarfie traditions and hangouts have fallen by the wayside, what has survived is the naming of flats.

"So there's often puns about the street, there's often lots of puns about the state of the house or the environment," says Sarah Gallagher from the Dunedin Flat Names Project.

"There's also references to sex and alcohol and things like that."

A former student herself, Ms Gallagher decided the tradition was worthy of some proper time and research.

"I had a paper map and a notebook, and my Pentax NE Super SLR, and [I] walked around the area."

Her photos form the basis of the Dunedin Flat Names Project, a website and future book, covering some of the tales behind the names.

One group of Howe St students christened their flat Treasure Island after listening to the audiobook of the same name on their summer road trip.

"It's sort of a thing now. So for Hyde Street we all went as pirates," says student Patrick Chambers.

Other flat names go back much further. There's 660 Castle St - where Kiwi band Six60 were formed - and the famous Pink Flat - the Door, created in the late '80s by a group of freedom flatties.

"Over years a flat becomes a legend and people will keep the name," Ms Gallagher says. "Sometimes if they love their sign, they take it with them."

Others like The Dollshouse are often a target for student pranks.

Many flats are known more by their names than their actual street address, and the best ones have long reputations.

"8-Man's a bit dusty... Thirsty Boys, Honeypot, Beehive, there's some pretty well-known ones," student Jono White says.

Bella Anastasiou says when she told her brother she had signed for The Boat, he wished her good luck.

"Because back in his time, it was a bit of a dodgy wee place."

But living in a well-known student flat is definitely a badge of honour.

"I like the named flat thing. It's probably the main reason I wanted to sign this place, because it's got a bit of character as everyone has said, and makes you feel like a true scarfie which is what we're all here for," says Michael Mazey.

Students are impressed that part of their quirky culture is being captured for posterity, but the book itself won't be released until 2019, marking Otago Uni's 150th anniversary.