Tauranga's $60 million new university campus was blessed before sunrise this morning for the arrival of its first students and staff.
About 100 staff and educations representatives gathered outside the University of Waikato's new CBD campus on Durham St for a special karakia ceremony at dawn.
The building was opened by kaumātua from Tauranga Moana, Waikato and the Kīngitanga, as well as university staff.
Before being invited into the new campus, the crowd gathered outside the entrance for the unveiling of a pouwhenua, which told the story of the local history.
Inside, the crowd was wowed by a poutokomanawa – the heart post - which artist Whare Thompson said told the Māori mythology of two "gatherers of the baskets of knowledge".
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Alister Jones said while the first classes started on Monday, the ceremony was appropriate to bless the site and the number of Māori artwork inside the building.
Jones said the laboratories will open first and from there, the building will open incrementally to students, staff and wider community as other parts of the campus were completed throughout the year.
"It is exciting. It is a significant milestone," he said.
"There is still a lot of work to do but the students who walked through on Monday were really excited."
He said numbers were well up on last year with about 900 individual students already enrolled as of Monday - about 250 more than this time last year.
"Numbers are growing daily," he said.