Strict new laws after student found dead

The body of student Mason Pendrous was discovered in the Sonoda a hall of residence at Canterbury...
The body of student Mason Pendrous was discovered in the Sonoda a hall of residence at Canterbury University last month. Photo: RNZ
Universities and halls of residence could face penalties of up to $100,000 under new laws announced after a student in Christchurch lay dead for at least four weeks without being found.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday said the Government would be introducing a new mandatory code of practice that would set out the duty of pastoral care tertiary providers owed to pupils.

"The recent death at a student hall of residence in Christchurch exposed the limitations of our current system," Hipkins said.

"Halls and hostels charge a premium for their accommodation and parents have every right to expect a high level of care for their sons and daughters.

The announcement comes after the body of 19-year-old student Mason Pendrous was discovered in the Sonoda a hall of residence at Canterbury University last month, at least four weeks after he died.

Hipkins said urgent changes to the Education Act would make care of students consistent across the country from 2021.

"Tertiary education providers could have complied with a voluntary code which was created in 2004, but the self-regulation approach has failed to maintain adequate and consistent standards across the board," Hipkins said.

"We are putting safeguards in place to prevent another tragedy like the one at the Sonoda student accommodation."

The law would also create new offences carrying maximum penalties up $100,000 for breaches that resulted in serious harm or the death of a student.

Hipkins said in the interim, a temporary code would be set up for the 2020 academic year, that would apply to both domestic and international students.

Student unions last month demanded changes to stop a repeat of the Christchurch death.

Pendrous was found in September when his friend climbed on to the roof at the halls of residence where the teenager lived and looked into his missing friend's room.

Pendrous was in his first year studying e-commerce and was living at Sonoda - a student hall of residence run by Campus Living Villages (CLV).

Victoria University of Wellington this month also confirmed a male Australian student aged in his 30s was found dead in his flat three days after he died in a university residence at Education House in Willis St in January 2018.