The University has purchased a $5 million house in Parnell to be rented to incoming Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater. The four bedroom, three bathroom property features a swimming pool and large garden space.
Market reports show that the average sale price of a three-bedroom property in Parnell was just over $1.6 million this January. With the university paying $1.5 million above the council valuation of the property at $5.06 million, Freshwater’s new four bedroom home ranks well above this figure.
It is not yet known how much the new Vice-Chancellor’s pay will be, or whether the residence is part of her pay deal. However, outgoing Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon was paid up to $770,000 in 2018, making him one of New Zealand’s highest paid Vice-Chancellors.
Lisa Finucane, the university’s Media and Communications Manager, has stated that the property will also be used for “university-related events and hosting”.
George Barton, President of the AUSA, condemned the purchase in a statement to craccum. “There are houses and then there are mansions and this is clearly the latter. There might be some sense in the University offering the new VC a new house as part of some package given that is what it takes to get the best into these roles but a $5m Parnell mansion…come on…” says Barton. “The University has a huge amount to answer for given it has made cuts to areas of academic priority in the name of fiscal responsibility. But here’s a question worth pondering, if student money bought the house, does that mean we can host pool parties for our students too as part of a new wellbeing strategy? Just kidding. In all seriousness though, this move is out of touch with the University’s role as a public institution and it is only right that students should be seriously concerned and frankly disappointed”.
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations national president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin has criticized the university’s spending, calling it frivolous. “A couple of years ago the University of Auckland closed a couple of its specialist libraries in the architecture and fine arts departments under the justification that the cost of keeping them open was too high and the university couldn’t afford them,” says Lenihan-Ikin.
In 2018, the university announced the closure of three specialist libraries, which were integrated into the general library. The move resulted in the loss of more than 40 staff and sparked opposition from the AUSA. At the time, Vice-Chancellor McCutcheon cited the university’s financial situation as the driver for the decision, and claimed the closure would save millions of dollars.
A recent listing on Unlimited Potential Real Estate for the property describes it as “Elegant, relaxed, on trend, timeless and just so wonderfully liveable, this classic three storey residence is just so perfectly Parnell. Located in the Double Grammar Zone, moments to Parnell and Newmarket shopping precincts, it is also just minutes to the CBD, you could say it has the best of Auckland on its doorstep”.