A university proctor has reportedly walked into a Dunedin flat and taken the tenants' "iconic" bongs away to be destroyed.
University of Otago student magazine Critic reports proctor Dave Scott entered the flat about three weeks ago when he saw the bongs, worth $400 according to the tenants, sitting on a table.
The only tenant home at the time in the Leith St North flat was upstairs asleep. Mr Scott was distributing pamphlets around the neighbourhood warning of the dangers of initiation ceremonies.
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"He'd come around to the back of the house and through the back door seen them sitting on a table, and had let himself in and taken them," Critic editor Joel MacManus told Newshub on Monday.
"They had these $400 really nice waterpipes, and they were all gone."
"We thought someone had stolen them, but then we thought that if anyone had done it around Castle/Leith someone would recognise our pipes as they are well-known," one flatmate told the student magazine.
They found out what had happened the next day when Mr Scott, a former police officer, came around to tell them.
"He told the flatties, 'I'll give you a warning - I won't go to the police as long as you clean the yard up a bit,'" said Mr MacManus.
"The flatmates said they cleaned the yard and hoped they'd get the pipes back, but they never did. They've been destroyed now."
It's not illegal to own a waterpipe, also known as a bong, but it remains illegal to smoke marijuana. A university spokeswoman told Critic the bongs had definitely been used to smoke marijuana, and that Mr Scott was "comfortable" with his actions.
"I'm not a lawyer, but that sounds to me like it's essentially trespassing if no one lets you in," said Mr MacManus. "If we set this precedent that university staff and security staff then have the ability to just walk into any flat... it will eliminate a fair amount of property rights, won't it?"
The flatmates didn't go to the police, afraid they'd get into trouble themselves. Mr MacManus says they don't have to now because the Whakamama Cannabis Museum has offered to replace the pricey paraphernalia.
Museum owner Abe Gray told Critic Mr Scott should have called the police if he was so concerned, rather than taking "vigilante" action.
"You know what the police would have said if the proctor had called them and said there was a tobacco water pipe that may have been used to smoke cannabis in a student flat? They would have said 'f**k off'."
Newshub has contacted the University of Otago for comment.