College board will oppose Selwyn sale

After more than two years of uncertainty, a decision on the future of Anglican ownership of...
After more than two years of uncertainty, a decision on the future of Anglican ownership of Dunedin’s Selwyn College is due to be made on Saturday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
The Selwyn College board of governors, at a special synod meeting on Saturday, will actively oppose the sale of the 1893 Dunedin residential college.

Board chairwoman Anne Stevens said she would put forward a strong argument for the diocesan council of the Anglican Church to retain the 170-bed Castle St college at the morning meeting at St Mathew’s Church at the weekend.

The college had a special character that could not be retained through a sale, Mrs Stevens said.

When the sale was proposed more than two years ago, there was a context conducive to the idea, she said.

The college at the time presented a reputational risk for the Anglican diocese but the situation there had since "turned around 100%".

There were some traditions, including initiations, that were no longer permitted, and there was now a different tone at the college.

The appointment of Luke McClelland as warden in October 2018 had provided stability at the college, and residents fully supported retention, she said.

"They love the idea of the independent college, that they’re different from the others, that there is a point of difference," Mrs Stevens said.

Private colleges provided more than 600 beds for the University of Otago, and Selwyn College was an important element of providing space, and care, for first-year students, Mrs Stevens said.

However, the uncertainty of the past two years had affected college residents and staff, and so Saturday’s final decision on the college’s future was "very important".

In September 2018, after the church voted to allow the sale of the buildings and business, former Selwyn College board of governors chairman the Rev Aaron Douglas said the problem for the church was mostly one of capacity to manage the college, rather than a financial issue.

The plan was vigorously opposed by some, including 280 Selwyn residents and former residents who signed a petition calling for church involvement to continue at the college.

Mrs Stevens said the independent consultation panel appointed by the diocesan council would also now put forward a case for retaining the college.

The 63-page report by the consultation panel chaired by Archbishop Sir David Moxon, which accompanies the order papers for the Saturday meeting, canvasses several models for selling the college, and three possible models for keeping the college.

It states in conclusion that the case for keeping the college is "more compelling" if the college’s special character is further developed, its process of culture change continues, and it is developed to resonate with Anglican values.

The college helped produce All Black David Kirk, Dunedin MP David Clark and former prime minister Sir William English, as well as being the home of the Selwyn Ballet.

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