Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland is one of the most expensive cities in the world and has some of the least affordable housing.
Last year, Auckland was ranked as the ninth most-unaffordable housing market on the planet, while in 2016 it sat in 19th place on a list of the world's most expensive cities. News that the University of Auckland has purchased a $5.06 million Parnell home for its new vice-chancellor to inhabit accordingly appears incomprehensible.
• Premium - University of Auckland splurges $5m on Parnell pad for new vice-chancellor
• Coronavirus: Auckland University prepares for outbreak, restricts travel to China
• 'Shameful and disgusting': University of Auckland slammed for kicking out student over mental health issues
• University of Auckland will not re-enrol student who was kicked out after suicide attempt
The university's previous vice-chancellor was in 2013 the highest-paid public sector worker in New Zealand, after a $20,000 pay increase took his salary to between $650,000 and $660,000. In 2011, he received a salary increase of between $40,000 and $60,000 in a single year.
That pay rise is not only more than a minimum-wage worker is paid for a whole year's work, it is higher than the entire Living Wage salary of an employee for 12 months.
The minimum wage is currently $17.70 an hour, while the Living Wage is $21.15.
The Living Wage is designed to provide two adults and two children with enough money to live on, meaning that full-time workers have the dignity of supporting their families. By contrast, the minimum wage is an arbitrary calculation, representing the lowest amount employers can legally pay their workers.
There are 157 accredited Living Wage employers in New Zealand. They are businesses which value their staff enough to pay them more than they are legally required to pay. The University of Auckland is not one of them, and neither is any other university.
This is despite the fact that universities see themselves as more than simply learning institutions. They say their research contributes to the development of society as a whole, and they enhance the community through their contribution to social issues and to achieving social, economic and physical wellbeing.
The University of Auckland's mission includes being committed to serving its local, national and international communities. Its values incorporate "working to advance the intellectual, cultural, environmental, economic and social wellbeing of the peoples of Auckland and New Zealand".
We do not know what the University of Auckland's incoming vice-chancellor will be paid, but her predecessor received up to $770,000 in 2018, and the new appointee's salary in Western Australia was A$1.095m.
It accordingly seems certain that she does not require assistance in housing herself.
Why is a university spending money on someone who does not need financial help, and ignoring those who do?
The $5m cost of the Parnell property which will house the incoming vice-chancellor would be roughly enough to pay the Living Wage to all the university's lowest-paid employees and contractors for a year.
Paying workers at very low rates means they have to work extremely long hours to try and support their families. They fall prey to loan sharks, suffer poor health from exhaustion and cannot afford to buy nutritious food for themselves and their children.
As are beneficiaries, they are likely to be housed in mouldy and damp properties, paying exorbitant rents for poor-quality accommodation. Cramped conditions spread ill-health and make it difficult for children to study.
They also make it far harder for families to afford to support their children to obtain university educations.
There is absolutely no problem with helping workers with accommodation. In Auckland, it would be wonderful if more employers assisted with housing.
But let's give aid to those who actually need it. That is the lowest-paid, not the highest-paid.
The University of Auckland's motto is "Ingenio et labore". That translates as "By natural ability and hard work". The problem for the university's lowest-paid workers is that, no matter how hard they work, the minimum wage is not enough for them to support their families and get ahead in Auckland.
And the university's pricey Parnell pad purchase has just told them - and the rest of the city - that it does not care about that.
• Catriona MacLennan is a barrister, journalist, author and media commentator.