Critic reads University’s emails…legally.

A Critic investigation has revealed that the University of Otago purchased Gardies with no clear plan of how to use the property.

A Capital Expenditure Evaluation and related emails obtained under the Official Information Act make it clear that the University bought Gardies without a clear plan for the property, simply because “the opportunity to acquire a large site, close to campus and with several development options is attractive.”
   The University Council minutes show that they approved up to $2 million to be spent acquiring the property, and internal emails make clear that the University was very keen to avoid the property continuing as a pub. Brewery Lion Nathan had a contractual right of first refusal in regards to the property, a right which the University was jittery about them exercising.
   In one email the University’s Chief Operating Officer John Patrick stated “We need to inform the media that we have purchased the property to try and stop the ‘Save the Gardies’ campaign that is gaining a head of steam. I can’t imagine it would be in Lion Nathan’s best interests to be seen to be involved in this campaign either. So an early response from them would be helpful.”
    Critic also obtained documents relating to the University’s acquisition of the Bowler, and its decision to head-lease 14 highly sought-after flats on Castle St.
   Documents relating to the purchase of the Bowler show that the University wanted to keep its plan quiet, with a telling sentence in the Project Report reading “It may be advantageous to attempt to purchase neighbouring properties before the Bowling Green sale becomes public knowledge.” The report shows the Bowler was viewed as a key strategic asset in a bid to land bank for the Health Sciences Division before release of the Campus Master Plan earlier this year.
   The University comes off better in the documents relating to its head-leasing of the Signal Hill Flats, where the University refused to sign the leases for the flats until they had been rated under the Student Tenancy Accommodation Rating Scheme (STARS). The Director of Accommodation Services James Lindsay stated in an email that “as a partner in the STARS project the University has to lead by example … and will not head lease any properties until they have been rated under the scheme.”
   So at least those international students will be warm when they have to stay in on a Saturday night.

Posted 4:47am Monday 2nd August 2010 by Gregor Whyte.