The University of Auckland’s Accommodation Support Service has announced that residents who are away from UoA accommodation for two weeks or more will not be charged rent. This comes after the Government’s announcement that Auckland will move to Alert Level 4 for at least seven days.
In an email from Campus Life, residents were provided with an update on accommodation fees during lockdown conditions. “Students vacating their accommodation for two weeks or more during Levels 3 and 4, as long as they are not breaching travel restrictions by relocating, will not be required to pay accommodation fees during their absence.” However, students have been informed that there will be no reduction in fees for those who stay at their accommodation. Last year, Craccum reported that despite half of New Zealand universities freezing accommodation fees in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Auckland continued to charge students who left University accommodation throughout Alert Levels 3 and 4 in previous lockdowns.
Previously, many students were also unable to cancel their lease until the lockdown was over. During this current lockdown period, Campus Life has communicated to residents that they are able to withdraw from their residential agreement, but that standard withdrawal policy will apply. According to the University’s official COVID-19 support page, residents are charged for up to 8 weeks accommodation fees, or remain liable for fees, until the end of the current semester, whichever is less to cancel their lease.
The recent move to Alert Level Four on Wednesday, August 18 has brought up concerns about the welfare of those living in student accommodation. All UoA accommodation will remain open during lockdown, with residents self-isolating in flat/floor bubbles. Accommodation staff will also provide essential support services with additional safety precautions including wearing masks. Student residents will also not be able to re-enter their accommodation if they choose to isolate somewhere else. In their email, Campus Life stated this was necessary to “keep our accommodation communities as safe as possible and avoid the risk of someone coming from home and bringing the virus with them.”
At a COVID-19 press conference, the Prime Minister responded to a question from an Aotearoa Student Press Association reporter that raised concerns that some residences at universities across the country would shut their doors or not allow residents into their accommodation. “I’ve asked Minister Hipkins to contact tertiary education institutions immediately. Of course, those who are in a position to choose to go into a hall or be in a bubble with their family are fine [to choose either option], but we do need to make sure that people are [making this decision] safely and that we don’t leave people in a position where they are not sheltered.” Auckland Central MP, Chlöe Swarbrick showed support for addressing student welfare during COVID-19 on Twitter. “Shout out to the press gallery journo who asked after the welfare of students in Student Accomm! We’re talking thousands of New Zealanders.”
In the email from Campus Life, UoA student residents were also made aware of additional measures that will be in place during lockdown. This includes a total alcohol ban at all UOA residences. “We would not want to overload the health system with calling out paramedics to deal with alcohol-related incidents across our residences.” Despite these precautions, some students have reported needing to go to the bank for $2 coins to pay for laundry. Laundry was previously free during lockdown at some residences.
While study spaces, the Recreation Centre, and shared accommodation spaces are closed, the university has confirmed that the Pharmacy and Health and Counselling on campus will remain open with some restrictions. The University has also stated that students experiencing financial difficulties can apply for the student emergency fund.