Deadly flooding forces closure of Auckland university campuses

Face-to-face classes suspended yet again as downpours dampen return to normality

January 31, 2023
flood disaster Australia Give Way sign inundation
Source: istock

Universities in New Zealand’s biggest metropolis are beginning yet another year in online mode, this time disrupted not by coronavirus but the biggest deluge in the city’s recorded history.

Two universities, along with schools, early learning centres and other tertiary institutions, have been closed for eight days on the orders of the country’s education secretary after Auckland endured its wettest day ever on 27 January.

The city is under a state of emergency after experiencing a summer’s rainfall complement in a day. Floods and landslides have killed four and left 350 people homeless.

The educational closures were mandated on the advice of emergency authorities, mainly to keep the roads clear while workers battled to repair vital infrastructure and meteorologists warned of more record rainfall and gale-force winds.

The University of Auckland has cancelled all face-to-face teaching until 7 February. “Anyone who can shift to online teaching immediately should do so,” it told staff. “This rapid transition to online learning, at such short notice, is not ideal however we have been in similar situations before during the pandemic.”

Academics involved in the university’s summer school had expected to return to classes on 31 January following the Auckland Anniversary Day holiday on Monday. Instead, 31 January was designated an optional “non-teaching day” with students told to “wait to hear directly from your lecturer” about changes to their schedules.

While flood damage has been limited on the university’s hilly main campus, a recreation centre has been closed for around a fortnight after becoming inundated at ground level. Rooms and floors have been closed in other campuses as workers address leaks and power outages.

On-campus classes have also been banned at Auckland University of Technology, with students told to stand by for advice on teaching arrangements. While some services have also been forced online, student accommodation has remained open at both universities.

In a country that endured one of the world’s strictest Covid-19 lockdowns in early 2020, Auckland has proven particularly unlucky. The city ushered in the following academic year with its campuses shuttered following a local outbreak in February 2021.

In 2022, early hopes of a normal year were dashed again when an outbreak of the Omicron strain forced New Zealand campuses to close for half a semester.

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