Investigation Terms of Reference 

2 October 2019


The University of Canterbury (UC or the University) wishes to investigate the delay in the discovery of the death of a student, named by his family as Mason, whose body was found in his room at the Sonoda Village student accommodation facility (Sonoda) on 23 September 2019. At this stage neither the date nor the cause of death are known. Sonoda is operated by Campus Living Villages Limited (CLV) under contract from UC. The UC Council intends that the circumstances of the delay in the discovery of Mason’s death shall be investigated by an objective, independent Investigator, who shall provide an Investigation Report containing findings and recommendations. The Report shall be completed and delivered to the Council as soon as is reasonably possible, bearing in mind the need for a thorough investigation.

The aim and scope of the investigation is to establish:

a. The circumstances surrounding the delay in the discovery of Mason’s death.

b. Whether any concerns about Mason’s welfare were raised by any party with UC, CLV, or anyone else.

c. Whether there was any response to any such concerns.

d. The policies, processes and procedures in place at UC and CLV to monitor and respond to student welfare issues at Sonoda, and whether those policies were adhered to.

e. Whether any improvements to those policies, processes and procedures are recommended by the Investigator, and any additional policies, processes or procedures required, and

f. Any other relevant matter that the Investigator considers necessary.

Agreed Principles

These Terms of Reference may be amended on the request of the Investigator with the agreement of UC.

Although the Investigation has been commissioned by UC, it will be completely independent of the University, and the findings and recommendations will be those of the Investigator alone.

The University’s role
Consistent with the independence of the Investigator, UC shall:

  1. provide the Investigator with access to all materials and information within its power and control that the Investigator regards as relevant to the purposes of the Investigation;
  2. facilitate meetings (either in person or by telephone or video link) with any person who may have information relevant to the Investigation;
  3. provide such assistance as may be necessary for the Investigator to obtain materials and information requested from third parties;
  4. provide the Investigator with such resources as he/she may consider to be reasonably necessary to carry out the Investigation efficiently and effectively, including taking statements from those interviewed; and
  5. more generally, support the Investigation.

Natural justice principles
The Investigation shall be conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice, respecting the confidentiality of information received on that basis, rights of privacy and the security of information.

Any information provided to the Investigator in confidence shall be kept confidential, so far as the law allows.

Statements and documents provided to the Investigator by any person interviewed in the course of the investigation, and the records of any such interviews, shall not be disclosed, without the consent of the person who provided the material, to any person other than:

  • the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of the University
  • members of the Council of the University
  • any other duly authorised person whose duties as officers, employees or agents of the University require them to see the material as part of the Investigation or such consequential action as the University may deem appropriate to implement the recommendations in the Report.


Information about the Investigation and these Terms of Reference shall be made publicly available. The available information shall include how contact may be made with the Investigator by any person who may wish to contact the Investigator proactively, in confidence if that is desired, to provide relevant information.

The Investigator shall prepare, and provide to the Chancellor and UC Council, in the Report a confidential summary of the conduct of the Investigation, the information obtained, and the findings and recommendations. The findings and recommendations shall be disclosed publicly.


The Investigator shall begin the Investigation immediately, with the objective that the Report will be completed within six weeks.

Use this email link to send confidential comments to the Investigator: Email Inquiry

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