Ex-MP Gould in NZ house attack

February 16, 1996

New Zealand. Students have questioned the NZ$79,000 (Pounds 35,000) cost of renovations to the house of Bryan Gould, Waikato University vice chancellor and former British Labour MP - criticism he has rejected as politically motivated.

Professor Gould said the persistent questions about the cost of renovations to the house were an attempt to undermine his criticisms of tertiary education funding and that he would not be deterred from speaking out on issues of public policy.

"The persistence of the current attempt to imply that the university has somehow acted improperly or extravagantly in meeting its contractual obligations to me can only be explained on the grounds that some wider political aim is being pursued," he said.

He said he did not ask for the use of a house, and it was part of the conditions of appointment made public when the job was advertised in 1993.

The house served as an office and was used for university functions, and he was required to live in it under the terms of his contract.

It was bought from the proceeds from the sale of a house used by Professor Gould's predecessor.

The price paid was substantially below the upper limit specified by the university but it was always clear that some immediate expenditure would be required to bring it up to an acceptable standard, Professor Gould said.

Like any landlord, the university would have to spend money on the property from time to time to maintain it. He had not taken part in decisions to spend money on the house.

Grant Robertson, New Zealand University Students' Association co-president, said students recognised a house could be part of the package to attract high-calibre applicants to the job.

The question was not over the provision of houses, but the money spent on renovations, such as the thousands spent on a tennis court and adjustments to a carport at the University of Otago.

Students would be encouraged if councils' first priorities were academic facilities and student services rather than vice chancellors' residences.

Mr Robertson said: "When there is a backlog of maintenance over four or five years, is it appropriate to spend that amount of money (on vice chancellors' houses)?" Four of New Zealand's seven universities - Otago, Victoria, Waikato and Massey - provide a house for their vice chancellors either rent free or for nominal rentals, with spending on renovations and refurbishment over the past couple of years ranging from nothing to more than $200,000.

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