University project gets green light with shovel-ready funding

The Government announcement that the University of Auckland will receive ‘shovel-ready’ funding for a construction project will create some 750 jobs in the building sector, with the goal of relocating the Faculty of Education and Social Work to the Central Campus by 2024.

Symonds St perspective of Building 201
Artist's rendition of B201 from Symonds Street

University of Auckland Director of Property Services, Simon Neale, said that Covid-19 had created uncertainty for the University in relation to the future operating cashflows which support capital expenditure.

“We are delighted to be working with the Government with a funding and financing plan that will enable the development to begin. The completed work will help ensure the best possible teaching and learning experience for our students, academics and researchers,” he said.

The project, which will enable the relocation of the faculty to the city campus, is a complex programme of building works across at least six buildings. It includes refurbishing existing buildings in poor condition and ensuring they are fit for purpose for contemporary teaching and research. 

The flagship of the programme is Building 201 which is effectively being stripped back to the frame and rebuilt as an environmentally sustainable fit-for-purpose facility. This will house parts of both the Faculty of Education and Social Work (EDSW) and the Faculty of Arts.

These spaces are part of the new approach to tertiary teaching and move our students into modern learning environments.

Associate Professor Mark Barrow Dean of Education and Social Work

Associate Professor Mark Barrow, Dean of Education and Social Work, said that important aspects of the development include the creation of specialist areas such as a marae, Pasifika Success facility, virtual learning spaces, multidisciplinary collaborative active learning spaces and specialist space to support the education of social workers and counsellors.

“These spaces are part of the new approach to tertiary teaching and move our students into modern learning environments. They will also support our engagement with our Māori and Pasifika students and communities and enhance our ability to provide a strong network to our two remote campuses in Whangarei and Manukau,” he said.

"This development will allow us to continue to play a significant role in growing and developing New Zealand’s teaching and social work workforces.”

Consolidating the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the Central Auckland campus is a key element in the overall strategy for teacher education which also includes the recently completed South Auckland Campus - Te Papa Ako o Tai Tonga - and planned enhancement of the Tai Tokerau campus in Whangarei. EDSW also includes the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work which provides expertise in teaching, research and practice in social work, counselling, disability support and youth work.

Artist's rendition of the Atrium of B201
Artist's rendition of the Atrium of B201

Professor Robert Greenberg, Dean of Arts, was also delighted to learn that the project will be moving forward.

“This project will also create a much-improved space for our School of Social Sciences with its numerous highly-ranked disciplines. We are very pleased to know that we will have new anthropology laboratories and a black box for our Screen and Communication programmes, among many other benefits.”

Simon Neale said that the complex nature of works involved meant an immediate start of the initial stages was required, to ensure the critical path for completion of key project components by 2024.

“If these initial stages, which include preparatory works for decanting Building 201, do not start in 2020, then successive and larger scale stages cannot commence. The main building works are scheduled to start in early 2021.”

This project will also create a much-improved space for our School of Social Sciences with its numerous highly-ranked disciplines.

Professor Robert Greenberg

As well as the obvious benefits to the University and its students, Simon Neale said that the size of the project will provide an important boost for the local construction industry.

“The University of Auckland engages New Zealand consultants, contractors, and suppliers; it is part of our selection criteria that a large amount of the supply chain is locally based and sourced.

“A significant range of employment opportunities will arise from this project from builders, plumbers, electricians, painters, ACM specialists, carpenters and construction workers, to architects, archaeologists and heritage consultants, and communications and network consultants. We anticipate some 600-750 workers will be engaged in construction on site at the peak.”

Preparation for decanting will start in spring, and the aim is to have EDSW entirely moved from the current Epsom location by the beginning of 2024.

“Through one of the Faculty’s precursors – the Auckland Training College – we have been on the Epsom campus since 1926 and we know there will be some sadness at leaving this historic site,” said Professor Barrow.

“However, we are thrilled that the development project that will see us move to modern innovative and purpose-designed premises in the Auckland campus has been given the green light. We will be keeping people – including students, staff, alumni, schools, and our current Epsom neighbours – informed throughout its progress.

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