By David Porter
The new University of Waikato campus in Tauranga’s Downtown CBD was formally opened in a ribbon-untying ceremony led by university chancellor and former prime minister Jim Bolger in April.
Around 200 staff, senior business and education leaders, and supporters gathered to open the $60 million campus development, which has been in operation since March – a year earlier than expected.
So far in 2019, more than 900 individual students are using the new campus, a 32 percent increase on the same time last year. There are 31 general staff in Tauranga: 50 academic staff, and 36 academics visiting regularly from the Hamilton Campus. The campus was expected to reach full capacity of about 1800 students or 1500 full-time equivalents within five years.
Degree-level courses offered at the campus included education, social science and business. The university has offered courses in Tauranga for 20 years, but had previously always needed to borrow facilities owned by other institutions.
Vice-chancellor Neil Quigley said that it was the beginning of a new era for the university in Bay of Plenty, with the institution becoming deeply embedded in the Bay’s social and economic systems, and transforming Tauranga into a true university city.
“To us this means enhancing social outcomes, contributing to economic growth and being a catalyst for change, regionally, nationally and internationally,” he said.
“We see ourselves as an enabler of education – giving people the opportunity to access higher education and transform their life prospects.”
Senior deputy vice-chancellor Alister Jones told Bay of Plenty Business News the campus was an exciting development.
“Feedback from students is very positive, the staff are enjoying teaching in the environment and the building is living up to expectations,” said Jones.
“But what is really important to understand is that the building is only an artifact of what we’re trying to achieve. It’s great having the building, but that’s only part of the equation. It’s about delivering to students, getting the right programmes and the right courses.”
The new campus development, led by the university on behalf of the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Partnership, enhances the range of qualifications and study options available to students in the Bay.
The development has been made possible through the support and drive of the region, especially the key funders: Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust.
Chancellor Bolger thanked all involved in bringing the project to life. These included key supporters, advisors, leaders and artists who have guided the process of bringing history and heritage to the building, and the iwi of Tauranga Moana, he said. Jasmax, Greenstone, Hawkins Construction, RLB Consultants, and other consultants such as Beca were also key in this project.
Neil Martin, architect and principal at Jasmax, said they were delighted to deliver the aspirational project.
“Mana whenua engagement with Ngai Tamarawaho was instrumental in informing the brief, and has been integrated into the design process from early concepts,” he said.