Key Points:

Auckland University has quit the Railway Campus after finding out repairs will take much longer than expected.

Wayne Clark, the university's director of student administration, said yesterday he had abandoned any hope of students returning to the block and terminated the contract to lease the block.

"We hoped to reoccupy it as a student residence next year once repairs were completed. Unfortunately delays have made this impossible. Repairs will take two years instead of one year as planned and we cannot have students living there while it is a construction site. The health and safety of residents and staff would be at considerable risk."

Last year, the 230-unit Quay Park block developed behind the Grade 1 historic Auckland Railway Station was evacuated. It sat idle and empty for months, waiting for a $6 million overhaul to begin.

An owner said yesterday the repair contract had been let and work had started. Desperate owners are selling one 18sq m unit on Trade Me for just $8000.

Clark said the university had ended its management contract and handed the block back to the body corporate which represents about 167 owners.

In 1999, Jim Speedy's Covington Corporation developed the complex and the university began managing it through a holding company, University Accommodation.

That business was the lessee, renting 230 apartments mainly to students, Clark said.

The initial lease term was for 15 years renewable up to a total of 147 years, the university said in February 1999 when the first students shifted in.

The university praised the building's "sympathetic renovation" which it said had retained the station's original splendour by keeping features like marble columns, terrazzo floors and vaulted ceilings.

But problems with the block, including leaks, saw it evacuated and now owners are getting as little as $12,800 for a fully furnished unit when they have sold places this year.

City Sales has been auctioning 32sq m places without reserves, leaving the door open for extremely low offers.

Clark said the owners needed to gain revenue from their investments and they wanted part of the building occupied when the first stage of repairs was completed next March.

"The university has no wish to stand in their way." The university had no trouble finding alternative accommodation in the city for students, he said.

Off track
* The railway campus has facilities for up to 600 students.
* Studio and three-bedroom units.
* On Quay Park leasehold land.