Immediately after paying $5 million for a high-end property for its new boss, the University of Auckland spent close to $200,000 repairing its roof and swimming pool.
The university bought the four-bedroom property as a home for incoming Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater.
Boasting manicured gardens, 338sq m of floorspace across three storeys and a spa and lap pool, the purchase was subsequently labelled "frivolous" and a "slap in the face" by student unions.
Investigators from the Government's top watchdog - the Auditor-General's Office - also announced they wanted answers as to why the home was bought.
Now the Herald can reveal the university's expenses didn't end once they paid $5.06m for the property.
A team of workers descended on the home to complete what the Herald understood was an almost six-week maintenance programme.
"Having had a building inspection done prior to purchasing the property, we were aware that some work was required, including some to bring it to a tenantable standard," a university spokeswoman said.
That "deferred maintenance" totalled between $160,000-$170,000, the university said.
An estimated $30,000 was also spent replastering the pool and repairing its pump and filtration system.
Bought in December last year, the house purchase has now drawn renewed interest at a time when the university was mired in financial hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It projected it would face a $48m revenue drop by 2023 as thousands of its foreign students remained stuck overseas, unable to travel to New Zealand.
To cut costs, the university called on staff to consider taking voluntary redundancies.
Nearby homeowners reported seeing work teams at the property in January. One source described the home as being "gutted" and repainted, and the pool being retiled.
The university spokeswoman said the estimated $160,000-$170,000 was maintenance on "the roof, replacing rotten joinery, some interior painting and replacing the kitchen extract".
The home was bought so Freshwater could rent it from the university when she started work in March.
According to an Official Information Act request, Freshwater's annual salary as the university's head was $755,000.
Living in the Parnell home, near Sir John Key's St Stephens Ave property, Freshwater is now paying the university $1100 weekly rent, according to a lease agreement reported by Radio NZ.
A valuation assessed the home as being able to command a weekly rent of $2000.
But that was reduced to $1240 a week, fully furnished, when deductions were made for parts of the house not exclusively available for personal use, including a basement room able to be used by university guests, RNZ reported.
Staff of the Auditor-General's Office have requested copies of the home's sale and purchase agreements, rental valuations and various internal emails, RNZ reported.
Given the university had said the home was also bought to host university events, the Auditor-General requested the university provide details of any upcoming events as well as those hosted by past vice-chancellors.
One document listed eight upcoming events in 2020/21.
This week Freshwater said that because of restrictions on social gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic, the home had not been able to be used for fundraising and other university events.
She said she had now recommended the university sell the home to help pay down debt.