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University Hall Reopens as Backpackers' Lodge

(Cited from NZ Herald. Monday 2/12/2019, P.3)

New Zealand’s largest private developer and investor, Mansons TCLM, has bought a former Auckland University hall of residence that has reopened as a 321-room backpackers’ lodge with summer room rates from $265/week.

Culum Manson said the business had bought the 11-level Huia Hall of Residence block “as a longterm investment some years ago”.

Auckland University had for some years leased the block at 110 Grafton Rd. The building has now become commercial budget hotel Zest OK Auckland.

Huia House Ltd was incorporated in 2015 and its directors are father Ted and sons Mac and Culum Manson. The Auckland Council lists the property as being valued at $25m.

Zest OK’s advertising said its new standard rates are $290 a week but it released the long-term summer rate of $265 a week.

As a hall of residence, the university advertised $524 a fortnight for a shared single or $806 a fortnight for a one-bedroom room.

Not everyone loved Huia: “Wouldn’t recommend living here to my worst enemy. Huia is the closest thing to hell on earth I have experienced,” wrote one student about the experience of living in “the 11-storey empire. Huia was not anyone’s first choice for halls.”

A university spokesperson said Huia was only ever leased and it never owned the building. The university had leased or built a lot of new student accommodation in the last few years and much of that had replaced Huia.

The Zest OK hotel opened last week and its summer special of $265 a week is being advertised as including water, power, heating and internet for an extra $15 a week. The accommodation

has shared kitchens, laundry, bathrooms and common rooms with a TV on each floor. Bike storage and an outside BBQ area is also being advertised.

Management said the hotel was a youth hostel “ushering in a new era for backpacking in the city”. Rooms are either single or double and have fridges, desks and windows with two shared bathrooms two per floor.

“This is the first Zest OK in the world, with expansion plans in New Zealand, Australia and Asia,” a spokesperson said.

Swiss-Belhotel employs about 12,000 people and is headed by richlister Gavin Faull.

“We’ve leased the building for 20 years,” Faull said.

“People want to be together, have fun."

“They’d rather buy a good bottle of wine than spend a lot on a hotel."

“Here they get a secure room with international management and have some fun. We’re going to do a Zest in Queenstown as well but it won’t be a Zest OK.”

Swiss-Belhotel had spent $1.1m refurbishing the building and planned to spend another $500,000 in the next year, Faull said.

The Grafton Rd alliance between Mansons TCLM as building owner and Swiss-Belhotel as the manager is the second collaboration between the two businesses.

In 2016, Mansons bought and redeveloped the ex-Victoria Park Markets carpark building. Faull’s business leased that for 20 years as the Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park luxury hotel with suites up to $2000 a night.

University Hall Reopens as Backpackers' Lodge