Petitioning Residents at New AUT City Accommodation
By Justin Hu (he/him)
Misleading advertising over a recreational centre has sparked a petition for rent reduction at AUT’s newest city accommodation, some residents allege.
Fifty-one residents of the uni’s Mayoral Drive accommodation have signed a petition demanding a rent reduction, saying they believed that the university’s marketing boasting of recreational facilities was misleading.
Residents have numerous complaints, including that recreational facilities such as the sports court are not part of the accommodation area they live in and that UOA students must pay to use the facilities.
Debate has spoken to multiple residents at Mayoral Drive who have spoken at length about their experiences. One resident said the issue was driving them to reconsider their accommodation.
“Many residents including myself were planning on moving in because they advertised these facilities as being part of the accommodations.”
“$375 is quite a lot for a studio room and a commons area — and the room is not very big either, to be honest. If they didn’t
advertise these facilities, then our decision to move in would be changed quite a bit,” the resident said.
Petition signers were also unhappy about construction delays, as previously reported on by Debate, which meant that the facilities were only available from the start of semester two. Residents say they were not informed about this until they had moved in.
AUT’s original marketing said the residents would have access to “a recreation centre and sports court, and shared study, social and dining spaces.” According to the university, the text was changed in May — after complaints from students who had already moved in.
While the complex is AUT-branded, the buildings themselves are owned by Cedar Pacific who run the student accommodation complex through its UniLodge subsidiary.
The university leases its space from Cedar Pacific. As a result, parts of the complex, which include the recreation centre, are not accessible from residence elevators.
Rino, a building resident and first-year student at AUT, says he agreed that the facilities were a significant part of what made the accommodation seem attractive.
“The reason I moved here was to use a basketball court and gym. We thought that this would all be included in the same building. [...] Now we learn that it’s closed in some hours on the weekend and we have to book it to use it.”
Another first-year student, who intends on flatting once their contract is up, said that AUT’s Wellesley Student Apartments (WSA) are a better deal for students.
“If I was told that this wasn’t done until semester two, then I would’ve moved into the cheaper hall where I would’ve also had better access to a sports court. [...] I'm planning on flatting next year instead, once my contract runs out here.”
AUT WSA includes a courtyard with a volleyball and basketball court for residents.
According to a resident, some residents had considered taking legal action over the issues. The original petition was drafted with help from AUTSA’s advocacy team before submission to AUT.
Other residents, spoken to by Debate, said they were also increasingly unhappy with newly introduced house rules within the complex. These were not part of the original petition.
In response to the petition, an AUT spokesperson said in a statement that the contracts signed by students did not mention a recreation centre and that the delay to completion wasn’t enough to justify a reduction in rent.
“Accommodation ads frequently include nearby attractions and places of interest and the contracts signed by residents made it absolutely clear what their rental costs include.”
“Students living in the residence are charged a market related fee that does not include an amount for use of the recreation centre.”
For non-AUT residents, the university says that it’s still unclear how much outside students would have to pay. Debate understands that AUT have been negotiating with UniLodge about the charge for non-AUT students.
“At this early stage of opening, any access charges have not been confirmed. Decisions regarding any charges will be made in consultation with AUTSA.“
The recreational facilities are currently free for all AUT students who have paid for it through their compulsory student levies.