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Campuses close as Cyclone Gabrielle hits New Zealand

Image: AWS S3 Explorer [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


State of emergency sends staff and students home from universities

Several New Zealand universities have closed their campuses because of the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle, with the government declaring a national state of emergency.

On 14 February, the University of Auckland announced a week-long closure, but by 15 February it said conditions would allow it to reopen on 16 February. Most staff have been working from home, and some teaching and examinations have been moved online. The university is offering students counselling if they have been distressed by the disaster.

Strong winds and flooding caused by the cyclone have disrupted the beginning of New Zealand’s academic year, with classes due to start on 20 or 27 February.

Massey University said that its crisis management team had decided to close its Manawatū campus, which was without power for an unknown period. Some of Massey’s summer semester students were due for examinations this week.

Massey’s Auckland campus was closed on 13 and 14 February but suffered “no significant damage”, a university statement said. However, widespread power and transport disruptions meant staff were “strongly encouraged” to work from home for the week if possible.

Several of Massey’s ancillary services and the library are operating on limited hours. The cyclone follows serious flooding issues at Massey in late January. High winds and other impacts are expected to continue for several more days.

Auckland University of Technology also closed on 13 and 14 February, with on-campus activities due to resume on 16 February.

In recognition of the impact the cyclone has had on researchers, the Marsden Fund has extended the deadline for its 2023 expressions of interest to 20 February.