Inside a chilly, six-bedroom Dunedin student flat video

James Gunn

Three Otago University students invited us around to their place to talk about Scarfie life in 2017

Stuff's Dunedin reporter, Hamish McNeilly, returned to his old student neighbourhood with a box of Speight's under his arm for the One in Five Million project.

In Dunedin's student quarter, back in the day, the infamous Castle St was crowned by the Gardies bar.

It's a study centre now but the two-storeyed pub used to arc around the corner onto Brook St, which quickly becomes Leith St.

Almost everyone who lives on Leith St is a student. It's a five-minute walk to the closest lecture theatres.

Among them, Tom Caughley, 19, Henry Sullivan, 19, and Sam Chandler, 20 are on their balcony reading the quiz questions off the bottom of Speight's caps.

The trio, who are studying law and commerce, are half of a six-bedroom flat of five young men and a woman.

The flatmates weren't all immediately comfortable with the student lifestyle.

The flatmates weren't all immediately comfortable with the student lifestyle.

They each pay $145 a week in rent, including internet, and $30 each towards flat food. Caughley says that leaves him with $70 a week to cover bills, personal food, and beer.

Their Leith St flat has only been visited by authorities once, when a noise control contractor warned them over loud music during a party. The flatmates simply turned their large speakers to face a different direction. Problem solved.

But from those parties the flat sports several holes in the ceilings and walls, which reveals a complete lack of insulation.

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"That's our ventilation system," Sullivan explains.

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And so how do they heat the place?

"We don't is the answer," Caughley says.

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"It is very chilly when you wake up."

Their power company offers an hour of free power at off-peak times, which means at 9pm the heat pump is turned on to 30 degrees and the dryer and dishwasher are cranked up.

"I think you'll be hard pressed to find a boys' flat that puts their heat pumps on," Caughley says.

The flatmates aren't at home much during the day, and at night often head to the library to keep warm, and study of course.

Flat rules include chipping in an extra dollar if anyone uses a heater or dryer outside the allotted free power slot, and if you cook, you clean.

The boys all take part in flat cooking days, but not their female flatmate, as "we eat lots of carbs and meat ... and she doesn't eat carbs and is pretty healthy," Chandler says.

Their respective specialities are chicken katsu with peanut sauce and rice (Caughley), roast lamb or beef sourced from his Southland farm (Sullivan), and nachos ("my childhood fantasy" - Chandler).

They say they could all cook before coming to Dunedin and were stunned when one of their flatmates asked "how do you know when water is boiling?".

"That was a bit of a red flag," Chandler says.

The unnamed flatmate has now mastered a range of mince-based dishes, including nachos, spaghetti bolognaise, tacos, burritos - "the list is endless", Caughley says.

The three aren't too worried about their student loans - they're all confident of getting jobs that could eventually clear their debts, which after five years of study may reach six figures.

Sullivan says future debt was not a consideration when choosing what he wanted to study - "we will worry about the loan later".

They weren't always so comfortable with the student lifestyle.

Chandler, who came from Wellington in search of "a better time", admits to finding his few days "a big culture-shock". That included loads of young people drinking on the streets and "broken glass everywhere".

Caughley: "I had no idea what was going on".

Last year, as first-year students (or "freshers") the group met at a hall of residence.

They were at the Six60 concert on Castle St when a balcony collapsed, injuring 18 people.

Chandler says he understands why authorities want to end antisocial behaviour like couch burning and bottle smashing. But he says he was "outraged" by plans to roll out more CCTV cameras in the area. (He's not sure why students seemed relatively apathetic on the issue, only narrowly opposing the move in a referendum run by the Otago University Students Association.)

 - Stuff


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