Chancellor Scott St John issued an apology on behalf of the University leadership team for the purchase of the Parnell mansion where Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater resided.
This follows the University leadership announcing it will be selling the $5 million property after a damning report from the Auditor General of New Zealand (a public official who investigates public institutions to ensure they are not misspending money).
The report states the University failed to show “a justifiable business purpose” for the mansion.
In an email to University staff, the Chancellor somewhat took responsibility for the University’s “failure to comply with requirements to approve sensitive expenditure” by purchasing the property before she was appointed.
“It was not her decision to purchase the property. Nor was she party to developing the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement for the property.”
She did, however, sign those terms and conditions and didn’t express any concern about her new four-bedroom, three-bathroom property with a large swimming pool and garden (at least publicly) at the time.
The Chancellor stated that “the comments and criticism of her in the media are grossly unfair and wrong”. However, he did not say who should instead be criticised.
The Vice-Chancellor will be conducting an independent review into the “administrative processes” that led to the property’s purchase.
The email ended with the Chancellor’s reassurance to the University community that “the Council strongly supports the Vice-Chancellor in resolving the issues identified.” Just in case it wasn’t clear whether the University leadership wanted to sweep this gigantic misstep under the rug as soon as possible.