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April 28, 2008 | by  | in News |
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Motel owners clearly have not been inside a student flat

Allegations made by Rotorua motel owners that Victoria University students attending this year’s University Games trashed motel rooms and left rooms full of vomit and alcohol have been described as an overreaction by students and Games organisers, who say the claims have been “exaggerated to an amazing extent.”

The Games were held in Rotorua between April 14 and 18, and about 130 students from Victoria were booked in to Cleveland Motel and Havana Motor Lodge during their fournight stay.

Havana was the first of the two motels to evict students, with a room of four asked to leave on Wednesday afternoon. Owner Jan Stevenson told the New Zealand Herald that the eviction came after a window in a unit was broken and red wine was spilled in the room.

According to the glazier who inspected the window, the damage to the window was not the result of vandalism. “[The glazier] advised that the window was accidental… [It was] broken from closing it,” Victoria University’s team manager Brent Hayward said.

However, repair costs were accepted by the students and Games organisers.

On the same night, Hayward was called to Cleveland Motel by owners Cynthia and Clyde Hawkins, who were reportedly upset about the state of a room and the noise caused by a number of students. The Hawkins threatened to evict the occupants of all the rooms.

Hayward says that when he arrived, there was a student who was requiring medical attention. “[The Hawkins] were unconcerned. They tried to drag me to one of the units to show me the mess [the students had made].”

“Clyde sort of snapped when I placed more importance on the student. He didn’t seem to comprehend reasoning and became frustrated, then grabbed me by the shirt and near the throat.”

Cynthia Hawkins denied Hayward’s account of events. “I got a hold of his jersey and said, ‘You come with me and I’ll show you.’ That’s all I did to him. If he’s [going to] treat that as a threat, [if] he’d like to come here… I’ll show him what I really [want to] do to him.” “We had police here, why didn’t he tell the police? What a liar he is.”

“It took many phone calls to get [Hayward] here and he didn’t even want to come and look at the room. He wasn’t concerned about anybody, it took everything we had to get him to come here and he wouldn’t even come and have a look at the destruction that was happening,” Hawkins said.

Following discussions attended by Hayward and the Hawkins, as well as the police and representatives from both University Sport New Zealand (USNZ) and the Rotorua City Council, students were allowed to stay at Cleveland. The Hawkins demanded a $1,000 bond, which was paid.

“They actually bribed us… the Council begged us to keep them here.”

On Thursday morning, Hayward was contacted by Stevenson from Havana Motor Lodge, who informed him that the remaining students staying at her motel were to be evicted, citing general untidiness, noise after 10 p.m. the previous night and the report of one student smoking near a unit.

Stevenson refused to participate in discussions with Hayward and USNZ, and declined requests for a refund despite a letter from the USNZ lawyer advising that it would be illegal to evict all the students without a refund. Alternative accommodation was found for the evicted students.

Later that day, Clyde Hawkins met with Victoria University’s assistant team manager Mark Davis, VUWSA President Joel Cosgrove and a USNZ representative. Hawkins told the group that all the students staying at Cleveland were being evicted, following an alleged tipoff from a security guard who said a student had informed him of plans to ransack the motel that night.

The police were again called as students were forced to leave in heavy rain. “We were concerned about the safety of the students… Clyde had one or two of his associates evicting them,” Hayward said.

Overnight accommodation for the students was found at backpacker hostels.

Following the students’ departure, Hawkins described the clean-up as “absolutely disgusting.”

“The damage was shocking. It was disgraceful.” She estimated repair costs at “over $3,000.”

“They’re living like pigs. Everyone in New Zealand knows they wouldn’t have cleaned up.”

Both Hayward and Cosgrove said the reports of damage were exaggerated. “There was some beer spilt and the vomit was only in one toilet,” Cosgrove said. “It wasn’t the apocalypse.”

This claim was concurred by Hayward, who also added that the students were “not well looked after” during their stay at the motels.

The owners of both Havana Motor Lodge and Cleveland Motel have been accused of verbally attacking the students. At Havana, a large number of students overheard Stevenson referring to members of Victoria’s league, touch and netball teams as “darkies.” At Cleveland, one witness claimed that Clyde Hawkins “stormed” into a room during a team talk and called one student “a fucking bitch.”

Cosgrove suggested that the moteliers may have been ill-prepared to accommodate university students. “If people sign on knowing what they’re getting, they’ll have a good experience.”

He cited the owner of a Newcastle Motor Lodge, a third motel that accommodated students from Victoria. “He was great. We got photos together… and he asked us to send them to him.”

Of the Hawkins, Cosgrove says: “They were new to the motel industry. Anyone who’s had involvement with the motel industry knows that it’s hard work. They got $6,000 to $9,000 for four nights – I think they just saw dollar signs and not the responsibility.”

Hayward pointed out that all the motel rooms had been prepaid. “They had the upper hand all week. I wonder if they would have evicted the students if the rooms hadn’t been paid for ahead of time. I’d like to know what their bookings are normally like at this time of year.”

Cynthia Hawkins rejected the suggestions made by Cosgrove and Hayward. “What’s [experience] got to do with anything? [And] it has nothing to do with money.”

However, Hawkins admitted that she had not hosted university students previously. “We were under the impression that [the students staying] were going to be older. When you hear about Ultimate Frisbee and things like that, we were actually thinking that they’d be more mature people, and at the end of it, like Thursday night, they would have a party and we were prepared for that.”

Regardless, Hawkins described Victoria University students as “the worst of the lot.”

“I’m ashamed.”

One student protested that all the students were being blamed for the alleged misbehaviour of a minority. “The ones who did cause damage should be punished, I agree, but don’t lump everyone together.”

The events at this year’s University Games already appear to have affected next year’s Game. “Based on information in the newspaper, there could be some moteliers who won’t accept any bookings for [the 2009 University Games],” Taranaki Motel Association President Deborah Tawa said.

Since the Games team returned from Rotorua, Hayward, Cosgrove and Davis have met with the University’s Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh. A detailed report of events is currently being be prepared for Walsh, who is expected to decide on an appropriate action for the students involved once the report is complete.

In a press release, Walsh said: “I am very concerned about this issue and it is my firm view that any inappropriate behaviour by students is inacceptable.”

Cosgrove said the he hoped Walsh and the University will “look at the facts.”

USNZ has already announced its support for Victoria students. “It was unfortunate that a small number of students misbehaved,” he said. “But the reaction from the motel owners was over-the-top and inhumane and unjustifiable.”

The Hawkins say they intend to contact the University and Walsh, while Hayward says VUWSA is considering legal action against the moteliers.

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Comments (3)

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  1. sarah says:

    woha… looks like some crazy antics went on:)

  2. Ian Anderson says:

    Once I woke up on fire.

  3. Ian Anderson says:

    Still fire!

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