Group initiates Fairfield College land plan

By Danielle Nicholson

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An artist's impression of the sustainable-education centre.
An artist's impression of the sustainable-education centre.

A proposal by community group The Fairfield Project could see a sustainable science and ecology education centre on 12ha of land bordering an extensive gully system that runs through the back of Fairfield College's grounds.

The concept came about after a meeting in November saw residents gather to hear from the Ministry of Education that the surplus land could be sold. The school sits on 24ha but the School Property Guide indicates that's much more than is needed for a roll of Fairfield College's size.

Sale of the land met with unanimous opposition.

At that meeting, the ministry indicated that in order to retain the land, an educational use for it would need to be established.

A group of about 12 local residents formed a steering committee - The Fairfield Project - which aims to meet the ministry's criteria with its proposal, which is still at concept stage.

The concept features a Green Star-rated building, an administration centre, seminar and teaching rooms, and teaching courtyards. Open-sided teaching pavilions would be sited in the gully and on the flat plains. Renewable energy such as solar and wind-generated power would be used extensively.

Project chairman Vic Arcus, a biology professor at Waikato University, said the jewel in the crown, however, would be the restoration of the extensive Kukutaruhe gully, some of which is overgrown with weeds and vines.

"The idea of an inter-generational project for the Fairfield community to create something unique for Hamilton is awesome," he said.

The group has informally consulted with other nearby schools, hapu and iwi, Ngati Wairere and Waikato Tainui, Waikato Regional Council, Hamilton City Council and the Enviroschools Foundation.

"Everyone that we have spoken to about the proposal has been excited by it and enthused by different aspects," said Mr Arcus.

He anticipates that tertiary institutions including Waikato University, Wintec and Te Runanga o Aotearoa may also be interested in utilising the facility.

"We're excited to be proposing a cutting-edge ecological learning centre," he said. "We think our proposal is a tremendous opportunity, not just for Fairfield but for the region.

"As a research scientist, I think that there is no better way for people of all ages to learn than by being engaged on a project. For people of all ages to be engaged in a long-term restoration project of this type would have enormous educational benefits."

The Fairfield Project envisions that the project would be operated by a trust and funds for the initial building would come from philanthropic sources. An ongoing operational costs funding model would be developed.

Mr Arcus said the project would not cost the school any money. If anything he hopes it would generate a return for Fairfield College.

The proposal will be presented to the Board of Trustees today and it's expected to meet to consider the proposal on May 1.

If it supports the concept, the board would present it to the Ministry of Education.

- Hamilton News

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