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AUT stands by their accommodation and mental health services, despite wellbeing report findings

By David Williams (he/him)

AUT says the standard of their accommodation and mental health services is excellent, despite a sobering report of student wellbeing across the country. The results from the Green Party’s People’s Inquiry into Student Wellbeing found that two thirds of students are struggling with basic necessities. Among the 4,500 respondents, it found on average, many students are spending most of their income on rent. The survey outlines those living in a shared flat spend 56% of their weekly income on rent. Group Director of Student Services and Administration Joanna Scarborough believes the standard of AUT’s student accommodation is high. “While those rates are high when we look at the comparative student allowance... it is offset by travel costs, and power, internet and water is included.” She also says the university has increased the pastoral care requirements above what the code requires. “Some university accommodations only have RAs on site, but AUT has chosen to have some staff living on site.” “Plus we have on-site security overnight.” The survey also shows that two-thirds of students regularly do not have enough money to buy food and clothing, pay bills, or get health care or other basics. That number is worse for disabled, Māori and Pasifika students. It also shows nearly two-thirds cannot afford to pay for public transport or the cost of a car. Among the 4,500 surveyed, 91 percent of students would use more public transport if it were free. “Everyone in this country deserves to live a life of dignity. Our new research shows that’s a right denied to thousands of students,” says Green Party tertiary education spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick. National Vice President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations Sam Blackmore says “We have an obligation to ensure that all students are able to live while studying, and this inquiry has proved that students are struggling to make ends meet.” The Green Party, NZUSA, Te Mana Ākonga, Tauira Pasifika and the National Disabled Students’ Association launched the survey at the beginning of April.

The Labour government affirms they have done a lot for students in the past five years. Education Minister Chris Hipkins says “student allowances had been increased 58.1 percent between 2017 and 2022, which compared to 3.6 percent between 2012 and 2017.” Students saw an increase in student allowance and student living costs by $25 a week on April 1 this year. “The first year of university had been made free, and apprenticeships had been funded to make the option available to all.” The inquiry makes strong recommendations to improve the welfare of students. The Green Party and the NZUSA both agree the government should widen the scope for the student allowance. Blackmore says “They should be provided regardless of how much part-time income that a student may make out of necessity to supplement themselves – especially in a cost-of-living crisis.” The report also recommends improving the accessibility and capacity of student mental health services. Scarborough says she is very proud of AUT’s services. “The challenge is making sure students can and know where to access them - there is no stigma, they are entitled to them, and we want to see them.” Hipkins says the government has made the biggest investment in mental health in New Zealand’s history. The inquiry also recommends making public transport free for tertiary students, rent controls and enforcing a rental warrant of fitness. “By investing in our students now, we can establish a society that will not allow anyone to endure living through a period of brutal transient poverty while they study,” says Blackmore.

To access AUT’s metal health and counselling services, email or call +64 9 921 9292. The locations on each campus are: City Campus: Level 2, WB Building North Campus: Level 2, AS building South Campus: MB107b


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