A plan to transform the site of the former Kaikohe Hotel has led to new experiences for some Auckland University students.

A busload of third-year Auckland University planning students arrived in Kaikohe on Friday, hoping to contribute to the process of deciding how the now-vacant site that was once home to the Kaikohe Hotel might be used in the future.

For many of them it was a new experience, the first time they had been so far north and their first taste of staying on a marae. Te Rūnanga-Á-Iwi O Ngāpuhi hopes their fresh eyes will lead to some innovative thinking for the site it owns on the town's mai street.

The 120-year-old hotel made headlines in 2014 as locals said their final goodbyes before the building was demolished. Since then, the site has been empty and overgrown.

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Te Rūnanga-Á-Iwi O Ngāpuhi's iwi development leader, Tania Pene, decided to contact Lena Henry, planning lecturer at Auckland University, to see if there was something she could do.
It quickly became an educational opportunity for her third-year students.

Armed with pads and pens, the students walked the streets of Kaikohe, questioning locals, one of whom was William Hohepa.

"One thing special about the people here is our area. It's all about where you are, who you are and why you are," Mr Hohepa told them.

Rosie Troughton (left), Julia Norris, Kristina Gurshin and Khirosyna Mani, about to unleash their imaginations.
Rosie Troughton (left), Julia Norris, Kristina Gurshin and Khirosyna Mani, about to unleash their imaginations.

He believed an inclusive information centre would be ideal for Kaikohe.

"William's idea of an information centre would open the doors of enrichment for the community's Māori culture," Ms Henry said, adding that she planned to bring another batch of students to Kaikohe in March.