Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Unitec plan to open campus to developers

Locals say they’ve not been asked about scheme for hundreds of new residences

The institute wants to modernise its facilities on a smaller campus.
The institute wants to modernise its facilities on a smaller campus.

The historic, orange brick ex-Carrington Psychiatric Hospital as heritage apartments, pedestrian and cycle links from Great North Rd to Carrington Rd, hundreds of new residents - that's the vision of the technical institute's chief executive Rick Ede and corporate relations director Darren Horsman for Unitec's campus.

Although the huge plans are opposed by many neighbours, the Unitec men want to turn most of their 53.5ha Mt Albert site over to residential and commercial development in a scheme Auckland councillor Cathy Casey says could result in 800 new residences built.

Dr Ede said discussions had already been held with Heritage New Zealand about the future of the former Carrington and Oakley psychiatric hospital buildings.

"It could be part of an interesting heritage apartment/residential complex," he said, adding that tens of millions of dollars were needed for seismic strengthening and his institute didn't have that.

"The Oakley Creek is a hidden gem ... We would create a gateway to the creek to invite people to it, through the housing zone, accessible and signposted," he said.

The institute could squeeze into 10ha of its site, selling or leasing the remaining 43ha in a 20- to 30-year scheme.

A new community liaison group is being formed, which will meet on June 25, and people can lodge their views at www.unitec.ac.nz.

Ede said Unitec had to become a 21st century physical teaching environment so needed to address "the high costs of maintaining the current campus layout and many of its buildings and also address the real seismic risk of some buildings".

The campus wasn't suited to modern teaching methods where bigger spaces were needed and the changes meant 40ha of land only 20 minutes from the CBD would be opened up, Ede said. "This reflects the council's vision for the city as it grows over the next 30 years."

But resident Martin Skinner said Unitec had not consulted the community and showed no social interest. Traffic was a huge problem, residents' streets often clogged with Unitec cars, but the institute had never bothered to tackle it. Ronnie Mackie was also worried about infrastructure pressure. "Where will the new residents' children go to school?"

Unitec facts
• NZ's largest technology institute
• 23,000+ students
• 160 vocational programmes
• $20m annual international student fees
• 2000 people employed
• Makes $130m annual revenue
• 53.5ha Wairaka Campus, Mt Albert
• 177 buildings
• Wants to lease or sell 43ha of land
• Would squeeze into remaining 10ha
[Source: Unitec]

- NZ Herald

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