Broken Faucet Shut Down AUT New City Accommodation

By Justin Wong (he/him)

Fifteen residents living at AUT’s new twin-tower city accommodation are still to return to their apartments more than three weeks after a broken water pipe forced them to leave.


The new student accommodation at Mayoral Drive could house almost 700 people and also featured AUT’s students-only recreation centre.


More than 150 residents were forced to evacuate in the early hours of July 30 after water leaking from a broken faucet in the 17th floor of the complex’s South Tower triggered the smoke alarm system.


Operator UniLodge told residents in an email later the South Tower’s accommodation would be closed until further notice and residents living there would need to move to the opposing North Tower.


The email also said the Student Recreation Centre would be closed until August 2,but communal areas located on the podium between the towers would remain operational.


AUT also told staff in a July 30 email that offices on levels 4 and 5 of the podium, which are used by staff from the Schools of Language and Social Sciences & Public Policy, could not be used that day.


A spokesperson from UniLodge told Debate that the broken faucet caused superficial damage and the decision to move all South Tower residents was to help investigate the problem.


The spokesperson also said work is now being done to redecorate affected areas and it could take “a couple of weeks”, but they did not say when the fifteen residents can return to their own rooms.


The residence, known as the WQ building or Te Āhuru, opened in February this year but it has been mired in construction problems.


Student accommodation facilities were not fully completed until May as burst pipes on five floors of the South Tower last December caused water damage in up to 80 apartments during construction, which delayed the completion date.


The podium and the recreation centre were also not in use for students and residents until months later than planned at the start of Semester 2, as fit out works started four months later than originally scheduled.


The entire complex is built by construction company Icon under supervision from consultancy firm Development Advisory Services Limited (DASL).


Both companies are yet to respond to queries from Debate.


Fifty-one residents have since signed a petition demanding their rent be dropped from $375 to $300 per week, with some telling Debate they were not informed about the delays until they moved in.


Other residents told Debate they felt misled by AUT marketing, which said residents at the complex would have access to “a recreation centre and sports court, and a shared study, social and dining spaces.”


They were later told by the university that the recreation centre is not part of the accommodation area they live in and those who are not AUT students would need to pay to use the facility.


Despite being AUT-branded, the building is owned by Brisbane-based developer Cedar Pacific.


The company also owns and operates three other student accommodations in Auckland that are branded with the University of Auckland, including 55 Symonds Street, 5 Whitaker Place, and Te Tirohanga o te Tōangaroa on Anzac Avenue.


It also owns other student housing developments in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Adelaide.


The developer’s ultimate owner is private equity firm Pamoja Capital, which is based in Luxembourg and registered in the British Virgin Islands.


Pamoja Capital is also UniLodge’s biggest shareholder.