Around 50 concerned residents gathered at the Aro Valley Community centre last Wednesday evening to discuss Victoria University’s proposed new development plans .
Of particular concern to locals was the plan to build a 400-bed hostel on Fairlie Terrace, with discussion over issues ranging from traffic, parking, shade, and infrastructure, to the overall make-up of the community and community spirit, and a fear that house prices would drop as long-time residents moved out of the region in response to these changes.
The locals’ greatest concern was the feeling that the residents of Aro Valley had been left out of the consultation loop – few at the meeting had heard anything at all from the University about the plans; most had heard about the plans via the newspaper or Aro Valley community newsletter.
Letters had been sent out by the University to residents of Central Terrace concerning the proposals, but those living below Fairlie Terrace had apparently been forgotten.
A meeting on the new Campus Development Framework in June 2006 considered such issues inherent to the university’s interests as cost, design, business issues, and resource consent, but not impact on the wider community.
An information evening on the first of March considered these issues, but the University saw its actions as justified under the Institutional Precinct Guidelines in the Wellington City Council’s district plan, and saw notification of residents as the Council’s job.
Meeting Co-Chair Roland Saesford accepted that this was the case legally, but pointed out that, as a public institution, the University also had obligations to consider public interest.
The residents felt the University had not done this, giving the meeting an air of a community feeling threatened but, most of all, ignored.