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‘Sewage leaked through my walls’ says student

Aug 26th, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

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VICTORIA University students used the university’s open day today to protest about substandard living conditions in three hostels in Willis St.

Hostel residents stood on the street and urged prospective students not to go anywhere near the Unicomm hostels, which they claim have suffered floods, leaks, mould, sewage and collapsed roofs for much of the year.

Some 515 residents aged between 18 and 21 have been plagued by accommodation issues and have been getting a “miserable” response from the hostel management, says Victoria University Students’ Association president Joel Cosgrove.

Students say construction taking place in and around the buildings has caused continuous problems for residents, preventing study, causing loss of sleep and keeping students locked inside their rooms for hours on end.

Residents pay up to $10,000 a year to live in the hostels, which are close to the university, and now many are wishing they didn’t. Each is asking hostel owners ING Real Estate Australia for a $1000 refund.

ING spokesman Ian Muir said today the group would not give a blanket hand-out to the 500 students involved.

There had been compensation given to those who had been directly affected by the construction, he told NZPA. “Obviously, the students are upset and we sincerely apologise for that.”

The buildings needed the work because they were not earthquake safe, one needed a new roof and the wiring was too old.

“When we found out the students were upset we stopped the work, and will only be doing noisy work during the holidays from now on.”

Victoria University accommodation service manager Nick Merrett gave residents a note midway through last week promising that all work would stop until a meeting with the contractors could resolve the problems.

In another note yesterday, he said the university was “distressed to hear of your concerns regarding the level of noise”. The university and the contractors had agreed all but essential maintenance work would stop after September 1.

Unicomm residents say they have been making complaints to hostel management all year and after “empty” promises to end construction were broken again, they decided to tell potential students at the open day of the living conditions they may be getting into.

Resident Claire Rainer says they are tired of not being taken seriously: “They give us ice-cream nights when they come and apologise and promise that things will change, but they don’t.”

When students threatened they would protest on open day if their demands were not met, she says Victoria closed the three residential halls to visitors, saying they were “under construction”.

Resident Amy Dilworth says she felt it was unfair to prevent visitors from viewing the facilities: “We weren’t told what we were getting into. We don’t want future students making the same mistake.”

Another resident, Ed Kilkenny, says it is “not fit to put a dog in”.

Some students interviewed say they threatened to move out throughout the year, but they are bound to a year-long contract.

Some students saw only photos of the complex before they moved in, to find it was nothing like what they had been shown and told.

Ilana Hill says she was told there is a gym, but when she finally located it the doors were locked. Others say the gear was broken, which led to the place being locked.

She is looking forward to moving out at the end of the semester: ”A builder drilled through a pipe and sewage leaked into some of the rooms. It took over a week to get cleaned up.”

Luke Beatson: “My room has leaked the entire year. They had to move my door back about half a meter so they could drill holes in the concrete in my floor. (I was) leaving for work and they were still there with a concrete drill at 9 o’clock in the morning, They were wearing earmuffs and I had no protection.”

Ed Kilkenny: “We have constant construction and constant leaks – we have had scaffolding in our room for the last two months”.

Kirstin MacKay: “I woke up to see my skylight missing and a builder staring at me through my roof. I was extremely uncomfortable, so went and slept on the couch.”

Josh McArthur: “The never-ending construction has disrupted everything – I wish I hadn’t come here. I am going home to get away from this mess.”

PICTURE: Look mum – no ceiling. One of the hallways in a Victoria University hostel.

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