‘‘Investing in property is not new business for us. Student accommodation however would be new for council,’’ ICC deputy mayor Darren Ludlow said.
Councillors held a public excluded meeting last week to discuss the possibility of invest› ing in student accommodation. The ICC cited the need to carry out commercial and industrial negotia› tions without prejudice or disad› vantage as the reason for the private meeting.
SIT chief executive Penny Sim› monds said the investment oppor› tunity being discussed involved the 26 existing student apartments on Yarrow and Spey Sts built to houseinternational students. An addi› tional 17 apartments planned for Yarrow St were not included.
SIT wanted to work with the ICC, as increasing the number of international students was good for the city, not just SIT, she said.
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt did not attend last week’s meeting because he is on the SIT board.
Cr Ludlow said SIT had approached the ICC with the investment proposition.
‘‘We haven’t gone out and sought it.’’
At the meeting, the ICC requested more informa› tion from SIT and other potential interested groups before it would make a decision, he said.
When asked if the ICC was open to the idea, Cr Ludlow said: ‘‘We are not closed to it.’’
Increasing the number of international students at SIT was an ‘‘easy first target’’ towards achieving the Southland Regional Development Strategy’s (SoRDS) overarching goal of increasing the region’s population, he said.
He said the ICC expected to receive the additional information it had asked for and would recon› vene to discuss the proposition within about six weeks.
ICC finance and corporate services director Dean Johnston declined to disclose the cost of the proposed investment.
Ms Simmonds said SIT would consider building further student accommodation facilities in the city in addition to the planned Yarrow St project.
‘‘If SIT is to significantly increase international student numbers, we would need to be looking at accommodation beyond the exist› ing [facilities] on Yarrow and Spey and [those] planned on Yarrow St.’’
SoRDS chairman Tom Camp› bell spoke at the closed meeting in support of SIT increasing its inter› national student population.
‘‘Increasing the number of students is an important part of SoRDS’ recommendations… It tic› ked three boxes — add numbers, add vibrancy and a source of future employees once they have gradu› ated,’’ he told the Southland Express on Monday.