Gordon Wilson flats decision highlights divide between students and neighbours

Victoria University of Wellington has got the green light to demolish the Gordon Wilson flats, but the process has ...
LUKE APPLEBY/FAIRFAX NZ

Victoria University of Wellington has got the green light to demolish the Gordon Wilson flats, but the process has highlighted major concerns from residents.

Plans to rezone a crumbling block of former Housing New Zealand flats have shattered the fragile truce between Victoria University students and their Kelburn neighbours.

A Wellington City Council panel has approved a proposal to rezone the Gordon Wilson flats at the southern end of The Terrace, now owned by the university, meaning they can be torn down and replaced – possibly with student accommodation.

That prospect has so alarmed neighbouring residents that they made their views clear to the hearing panel on Wednesday.

Neighbours claim drunken Victoria University students from halls of residence left this mess in and around Kelburn Park.
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Neighbours claim drunken Victoria University students from halls of residence left this mess in and around Kelburn Park.

"The yelling and screaming is so loud you wear earplugs all night," accountant Nicola Koptisch said of her student neighbours.

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Kelburn resident and lawyer John Blincoe said: "We were all young once ... but we're just saying that after 9pm it would be nice to have some peace and quiet."

More party debris in Kelburn Park. One Kelburn resident told a council hearing panel on Wednesday that the university ...
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More party debris in Kelburn Park. One Kelburn resident told a council hearing panel on Wednesday that the university "could not be trusted" to build more student accommodation without disruption to the community.

He felt the university "could not be trusted" to establish any more student accommodation without disruption to the community.

Their concerns were echoed by so many other submitters that the hearing panel made special non-statutory recommendations in its report, including a working party to mediate between police, Victoria University staff and students, Kelburn residents and the council.

Councillor Andy Foster, who chaired the panel, said: "Residents certainly gave us some fairly graphic submissions of drunken carousing and being up at all hours.

"There's still an issue and everybody acknowledges there's an issue."

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The panel was hearing a proposal from Urban Perspectives, on behalf of the university, to rezone the Gordon Wilson flats from an inner residential area to an institutional precinct, and remove the flats from the District Plan's heritage list.

Approval of the plan means the university can build anything in their place that enables it to expand – be it lecture halls, studios, or student accommodation. 

In its strategic plan, Victoria aims to double its current roll to about 30,000 students over the next 20 years.

Jenny Bentley, director of campus services, said: "The site will eventually be a front door to central Wellington from Victoria's Kelburn campus and provide a safe and attractive public pedestrian link route between the campus and Ghuznee St.

"Victoria is committed to being a good neighbour and to educating these young people about their responsibilities as members of the Wellington community and about the university's expectations around behaviour." 

The university was always looking for new ways to improve on this, she said.

Victoria University Students Association president Jonathan Gee said a working party was positive progress, but he was concerned students were being stigmatised.

"But it should be more positively framed, it should be how to encourage positive community. 

"Perception breeds reality here. If you say 'they are all drunks' and that hall is a party hall, that creates reality and that, I think, is very dangerous."

 - Stuff

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