The University of Auckland has spent $5 million on a swanky Parnell mansion with manicured gardens and a lap pool for its new boss to live in.
Students have called the "frivolous" purchase a "slap in the face", while the Government says it's up to the university to defend its actions.
Professor Dawn Freshwater will move into the four-bedroom home, which is in the heart of the prestigious neighbourhood, when she takes over as the university's new vice-chancellor in March.
She will rent the property but the university would not reveal how much she'll pay for it or whether the cost will be subsidised by her employers.
NZ Union of Students' Associations president Isabella Lenihan-Ikin questioned why the university had to provide accommodation for a highly paid executive like Freshwater.
"Look, there is buying a house for the vice-chancellor and then there is buying a $5m mansion - and it doesn't reconcile the fact that their money comes from our loans and from the taxpayer," she said.
"This purchase seems like a significant slap in the face for Auckland University students, who are facing the impacts of the housing and rental crisis."
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The university paid $5.06m for the four-bedroom house, which is near Sir John Key's St Stephens Ave home, in December. That was $1.5m above the council valuation.
Four-bedroom homes in Parnell rent for a median price of $1250 a week, according to analysts CoreLogic.
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The university wouldn't specify how much it would rent it out for but said the property would have several uses.
"It will be rented from the university by the incoming vice-chancellor for accommodation and will also be a venue for university-related events and hosting," said a spokeswoman.
The scale of the house purchase has been called into question by others at a time when efforts have been made to keep a lid on public-sector salaries.
Outgoing University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon was understood to be one of the nation's highest-paid university heads with a salary of between $760,000 and $769,999 in the 2017/18 financial year.
It's unclear how much Freshwater is being paid in her new role but she was earning A$1.095m ($1.13m) with the University of Western Australia in Perth in 2018, according to media outlet Times Higher Education.
A spokeswoman for Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he hadn't "been advised" about the purchase "and it will be for the university to defend".
The National Party's tertiary education spokesman, Dr Shane Reti, said the university needed to prudently use taxpayer funds "and should account for the need to purchase this house and the scale of the purchase".
"I would be concerned if this purchase was significantly influenced by the recruitment of a new vice-chancellor," he said.
NZUSA's Lenihan-Ikin said the university has often cited financial troubles as reasons to cut back on student services, pointing to how the University of Auckland recently closed specialist libraries for a number of faculties in a move that cost jobs.
Vice-chancellor McCutcheon said at the time that the changes would save several million dollars that would be spent on academic activities.
But Lenihan-Ikin said closing libraries and buying a $5m home was a bad look.
The purchase also comes as New Zealand universities have been crying poor, and saying they were struggling to meet their educational commitments due to chronic Government underfunding.
McCutcheon last year responded to the Government's Budget by saying New Zealand's universities were funded below the OECD average.
"Already we are having to restructure our operations to cut costs, and we will inevitably see that process accelerated now with further cuts in staffing," he said.