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AUT’s new student accommodation ‘open’ but construction still ongoing

By Justin Wong (he/him)

Student News Writer

The South Tower, left, and the North Tower, right, of AUT’s new student accommodation on Mayoral Drive.

Only one tower of AUT’s new twin-tower student accommodation on Mayoral Drive is open, with the building still under construction until at least mid-May. Currently, only 90 out of almost 700 rooms are occupied.

The agenda paper for the February AUT Council meeting showed the university was aware that the WQ building, named Te Āhuru – The Sanctuary - could not be fully prepared by February 1 because of water damage repairs and other construction delays.The facility offers 697 self-contained studio apartments for AUT students that come with a kitchenette and bathroom. It is now operated by private accommodation provider UniLodge.

The building’s North Tower, which borders the Mayoral Drive and Wellesley Street intersection, hosts 391 apartments, the accommodation’s management office and reception.

On top of providing accommodation by hosting 306 rooms, the opposite South Tower also includes a recreation centre at its lower levels alongside student activity spaces, storage and office spaces. The centre is funded by the student building levy, which costs $77.52 for each AUT student this year in addition to tuition fees, but it would be open for all to use.Level 6 of both towers are stretched into a common level that acts as the facility’s communal space with study rooms, kitchen, dining area, theatre room, and a BBQ courtyard.

The Council document said a pipe burst on five floors of the South Tower on December 23 last year caused water damage, resulting in up to 80 apartments needing repairs, but it “will not be completed until mid-May 2021”.

Artist’s impression of what the sports court at AUT’s new Mayoral Drive student accommodation looks like.

“Subsequently, a delay for the accommodation towers has been advised until 15 February 2021 and that a Certificate of Public Use would be achieved for partial occupancy of the towers.”The agenda paper also said that a podium between levels 1 and 5 of the building is still under construction until May 18 because fit out works started four months later than originally scheduled last September.

Construction is visible as of a Debate visit to the building late March, with site hoardings surrounding the lower levels, construction materials being offloaded on St Paul Street, and contractors working at what looks like a sports court.

AUT’s Head of Communications Alison Sykora did not say how many studio apartments out of the proclaimed 697 rooms were available at the building’s opening, but said it was enough to accommodate everyone who wanted a place at that time.She confirmed that the university only received the building’s North Tower when the facility opened in February, and it is now available and used by staff and residents alongside the level 6 communal spaces.AUT’s new student accommodation ‘open’ but construction still ongoing

There are no apartments still under construction but the university is still waiting for a definitive date for contractors to complete and hand over the South To w e r.Current works include the repairs for the water damaged studio apartments from the December pipe burst, and the construction for the podium space across 5 floors, the recreation centre, and sports court.

However, Sykora rejected that the university pushed to open the accommodation even knowing some facilities are not fully available because they were unconnected with the accommodation.“These are separate projects – the recreation centre is for all students.”“The student accommodation is independent to the other elements of the building, though residents will be able to make use of the facilities.”AUT’s student association said in a statement to Debate that it is getting updated on the construction progress through President Sisifa Lui’s position on the AUT Council.

Acting General Manager Simon Bell said that it was to the association’s understanding that most of the apartments at the WQ building are completed and no residents have asked them for any assistance.

“It is understandable that projects such as this have been impacted by the events of the last twelve months.”

“Additionally, AUTSA is not aware of any students having been impacted by a lack of availability, and we are aware that AUT has in place contingency plans to ensure suitable accommodation for those who had booked rooms in this block.”Rent for each apartment is $375 per week, but the university offered a now-ended $1,000 discount for a full year’s stay and waived the $150 application fee for 200 rooms at the facility.

The sports court at AUT’s new Mayoral Drive student accommodation is still under construction on March 23, 2021. It is expected to open in July 2021.


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