It was once a gravel parking lot but now Tauranga's iconic university campus towers over the city centre.

Large glass windows on each of the two buildings' levels reveal enticing views of the CBD, the harbour and Mauao, a different scene at every turn.

Polished concrete floors reflect overhead lighting and unpainted wood meets the eye everywhere you look - wooden beams lining the ceiling, timber doors for every room and rustic furnishings combine to create an industrial - yet natural - look.

University of Waikato campus. Photo / Andrew Warner
University of Waikato campus. Photo / Andrew Warner

'"The idea is to create a campus within a building," says deputy vice-chancellor Professor Alister Jones.

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"It is designed to feel like you are not inside a building. The views are great, you can see the sea, and you can see the city."

Walking up a wide stairway, an 18m-high poutokomanawa panel lights up the central atrium, stretching from the ground to the fourth floor.

The centrepiece reflects the Māori mythology of Tane and Tawhaki's ascent of the 12 realms to receive the three baskets of knowledge.

The new campus is four storeys high. Photo / Andrew Warner
The new campus is four storeys high. Photo / Andrew Warner

All around the buildings are collaborative areas and customisable teaching spaces. The campus has a 200-seat lecture theatre, multi-function space, 24-hour computer lab, cafe, commercial kitchen and a new multifunction centre for cultural activities named Te Manawaroa.

Although the $60 million building is yet to officially open, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for Monday afternoon, students are already everywhere, quietly working away.

Some have their noses in their books by themselves in comfortable study nooks, others are in groups at large tables or tucked away on cleverly-designed corner couches.

They're among the more than 900 students that have decided Tauranga is the place to undertake their tertiary study this year.

Joining them are the 90 or so staff who shifted into their offices yesterday.

University of Waikato campus. Photo / Andrew Warner
University of Waikato campus. Photo / Andrew Warner

Jones smiles as he walks through the corridors of the campus he campaigned for.

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"We have taken what was a carpark and turned it into an iconic building," he says.

"We think it is going to serve our students and community well. I think it is going to be an iconic development for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty."


WHAT THE STUDENTS THINK

Arsh Khakh, 18.
Arsh Khakh, 18.

Arsh Khakh, 18
"The environment makes me want to study."

Shaandeep Singh, 18.
Shaandeep Singh, 18.

Shaandeep Singh, 18
"It is welcoming. The colours are vibrant."

Dan Michael, 20.
Dan Michael, 20.

Dan Michael, 20
"I like how it is open and it is study friendly."

Michaela Strongman, 21.
Michaela Strongman, 21.

Michaela Strongman, 21
"It has got so many different areas where you can study. It makes it easier to learn in a nice environment."

Tessa Ewens, 18.
Tessa Ewens, 18.

Tessa Ewens, 18
"I like how it feels light and friendly. It makes you feel really productive and I like the architecture."

The timeline of the university campus project

Since 1990

The University of Waikato offers papers in Tauranga

Since 1995
An agreement between the University of Waikato and the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic means students who have completed diplomas at the polytechnic can transfer into university degree programmes.

1995
Presentation to the University of Waikato by the Western Bay of Plenty University Action Committee for the establishment of a campus in the Bay of Plenty.

2003
A total 484 students in University of Waikato degree and postgraduate programmes in the Bay of Plenty.

2004
Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the University of Waikato sponsor an investigation into a cost-effective and academically appropriate model of tertiary education provision.

2006
The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the University of Waikato sign a Deed of Co-operation and establish the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership.

2010
Initial investment concepts for a university campus are presented to Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi joins the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership.

2012
Now 870 students in University of Waikato degree and postgraduate programmes in the Bay of Plenty. Tauranga City Council conditionally agrees to provide land in Durham St.

2013
An estimated 755 students in Bay of Plenty Polytechnic diploma programmes with guaranteed credit into University of Waikato degrees.

August 2013
Bay of Plenty Regional Council conditionally agrees to contribute up to $15 million of Regional Infrastructure Funds.

December 2013
Waiariki Institute of Technology joins the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership.

July 2014
Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust conditionally agrees to contribute up to $15 million for the campus development.

2015
The Tauranga Tertiary Campus Charitable Trust is established.

May 2015
A Heads of Agreement is signed between the University of Waikato, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Tauranga City Council and Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust

August 2015
Greenstone Group is appointed as project manager, design and build.

September 2015
A development contract for the design and construction of the new campus is signed by the University of Waikato and the Tauranga Tertiary Campus Charitable Trust.

December 2015
Architects appointed.

October 2016
Design concept to be approved.

2018
Construction of stage one began.

2019
Campus opened to students.