Building up to 'mad weekend'

Second-year students Greer Ferguson (left), of Queenstown,  and Julia Landels, of Balclutha, are waiting for their other three flatmates to join them in their new abode in Dunedin North. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN
Second-year students Greer Ferguson (left), of Queenstown, and Julia Landels, of Balclutha, are waiting for their other three flatmates to join them in their new abode in Dunedin North. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN
A buzz is building in North Dunedin as about 20,000 students pour into the city for the start of the university year.

The University of Otago students join thousands of Otago Polytechnic students to bring life and vibrancy to the tertiary precinct and giving an economic boost to the wider city.

With Orientation Week set to start on Monday, and university classes the following week, thousands of students will be moving into flats and halls of residence during the next few days.

Otago Motel Association committee member and Roslyn Apartments owner-operator Jay Nixon has nicknamed the weekend before Orientation "mad weekend'' because of the influx of students and their parents.

The coming week was the busiest of the year for the motel industry and accommodation was likely to be tight across the city, she said.

Motel owners had to take on extra staff to cope with the demand, and the association ran an "email tree'' to share notices of late cancellations, so the accommodation could be snapped up by others, Mrs Nixon said.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said there was both a social and economic element to the students' presence in the city.

The students made a "huge impact'' on the town and there were potentially huge "flow-on effects'' for retailers and tradespeople, as well as the food and beverage industries, Mr McGowan said.

Reports jointly released by the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic last year showed the two institutions injected a combined $1 billion into Dunedin's economy in 2015.

University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said there was a "huge buzz'' around the university and Dunedin when the students returned.

"I always look forward to meeting these bright new citizens of our city, touching base with parents and whanau, and personally attending most of the Orientation events.''

"I think I can safely say the experience students have at our colleges and at Orientation ... is second to none.''

Right now, a "massive organisational effort'' was going on across the university to welcome the students back, and staff went the "extra mile'' to help them settle in, she said.

"It is a special time of year, both for the university and the city.''

About 7000 students are expected to study at Otago Polytechnic this year, including a large mid-year intake.

Based on an economic impact report for Otago Polytechnic, released in July, it is expected each polytechnic student will spend $15,000 per year - an injection of about $100 million for the Dunedin economy.

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said it was "always an exciting time'' when the students arrived.

Two mihi whakatau had already been held this week, offering an individual welcome to every new student.

"Otago Polytechnic's 7000-plus students contribute to Dunedin's vibrant culture, helping to cement this city as a favourite education destination,'' Mr Ker said.

- Star reporters 

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