The new student centre, Te Puna, has 6900 sq m of floor space dedicated to student services, teaching and study spaces, library facilities, food outlets, and a new student health centre -Photo by Matt Crawford, courtesy of WLC
Unitec commences the revitalisation of its campus – By Lynne Richardson
Over the next 10 to 15 years, Unitec is set to transform its current Mt Albert campus on Auckland’s western city fringe to better meet the needs of its students, the local community and greater Auckland, with the development of a 21st century living, learning and working environment.
Unitec is New Zealand’s largest institute of technology, with 16,000 students studying over 150 work-oriented programmes. Established in 1976 as the Carrington Technical Institute, the campus lies on 55 ha of grounds (owned by Unitec) on Carrington Road in Mt Albert, and includes the historic listed buildings of the former Carrington Hospital, which served as Auckland’s lunatic asylum until the early 1990s.
The institute operates from a very diverse range and number of buildings spread across the campus, which provides challenges for teaching staff to effectively use modern teaching methods and technology.
The canopied exterior of Mataaho – the facility is New Zealand’s largest open-plan trades training facility and reflects a modern worksite with many disciplines in close proximity
William Smith, WLC chief executive, says polytechnics, unlike universities, are about delivering ‘working learning’. “The way tertiary education is delivered today has changed fundamentally from when Unitec was first established – changes brought about by advances in technology and modern ways that optimise learning opportunities,” he notes.
From campus to urban village
Another important aspect of the master plan is to free up land within the Wairaka Precinct for commercial and residential development – including a business park and student accommodation – which will be achieved by reducing the Unitec property portfolio from the current 177 buildings to a dozen that are fit for purpose, effectively reducing the property footprint from over 100,000 sq m to around 55,000 sq m on just 8 ha of land.
One of the aims of the master plan is to reduce students’ dependence on cars to get to and from the campus (requiring far too much space that is dedicated to car parks) and promote the use of public transport via buses and trains with cycling and walking. All WLC staff use e-bikes to get around the campus, and many staff travel into the city from home then bike to Unitec.
Modern learning facilities
WLC has recently completed two new state-of-the-art buildings that serve as the foundation of the modern campus. The new trades training facility, named Mataaho, and student centre, named Te Puna, were officially opened on 23 August.
Unitec chief executive Dr Rick Ede says the new buildings mark the first major physical step in Unitec’s transformation. “Te Puna and Mataaho embody Unitec’s vision for a modern campus, tailor-made to support our approach to contemporary applied learning.”
Te Puna forms the centre of student and staff life at Unitec, with 6900 sq m of floor space dedicated to student services, teaching and study spaces, library facilities, food outlets, and a new student health centre. Students contributed to the design and delivery of Te Puna with projects worked into the Unitec curriculum, including furnishings, landscaping, layout and traffic management planning.
At 7000 sq m, Mataaho is New Zealand’s largest open-plan trades training facility. The design reflects a modern worksite with many disciplines in close proximity, giving students exposure to an array of specialties. Unitec has invested nearly $8 million to fill Mataaho with a huge range of specialised tools and equipment, complemented by the largest range of virtual reality, augmented reality, and emulation equipment for trades training in the country.
Dean of engineering, construction and infrastructure, Renee Davies, says combining traditional hands-on training with simulation and emulation equipment gives students extra time to practise, allows them to revisit lessons, and to use enhanced visual tools to support learning.
As the country’s most advanced trades training centre, Mataaho also brings opportunities for Unitec to collaborate with the wider construction and automotive industries, opening the doors to organisations seeking to train staff on the latest techniques and technologies.
A new vibrant hub
Construction of the new buildings began in January last year and was completed for Semester 2 this year. The combined cost of both buildings, including equipment for Mataaho, was $70 million.
William Smith says the buildings’ completion indicates that Unitec’s transformation is well underway. “We are really excited about the future for Unitec. Investing in these new facilities will leverage Unitec’s wider offering to better meet the needs of contemporary learners and the wider community. We will turn infrastructure from an anchor into a resource, creating a new vibrant hub for the western city fringe, and in the process Unitec will become a better and more sustainable business.”
Lynne Richardson is the editor of New Zealand Construction News and FTD - Supply Chain Management Magazine