The University of Auckland is shutting its Epsom and Tamaki campus hubs and buying a big Newmarket site where it will educate and house some of its growing student population base.

New Zealand's biggest tertiary organisation had confirmed that it wanted to buy the ex-Lion Breweries site in Newmarket and consolidate many operations there, while retaining its Auckland CBD and Grafton campus sites.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon issued the statement at 3pm, saying the university had entered into a conditional agreement to purchase the 5.2ha former Lion Breweries site in Newmarket, in what is potentially its most significant property acquisition in a generation.

AMP tried to buy the site last decade for about $160 million but ditched those plans when the global financial crisis hit, leaving Lion with the land, after the brewery and food business shifted its hub to South Auckland.

If successful, the university said it would use the Newmarket site as the basis for long-term development of a mixed use campus, "with space for purpose-built teaching and research facilities, student accommodation, business development and other facilities", it said.


This strategic move would eventually see the university consolidate its activities at the City, Grafton and Newmarket campuses, benefiting city life and bringing in new commercial opportunities, the statement said.

Epsom would shift to the City Campus while Tamaki would shift to Newmarket.

McCutcheon said the site presented a major new opportunity, integral to the university's growth strategy for the next 50 years. The Newmarket site offered long term growth potential close to the City and Grafton campuses, he said.

"In order to support and sustain our ambitious growth path, the university needs to build or acquire additional space at a rate of about 6000sq m of gross floor area per annum for the foreseeable future," he said.

The City and Grafton Campuses could sustain only 10 to 15 years of growth.

"The Newmarket site provides a significant opportunity for the university to manage its growth requirements over the next 50 years. The site's benefits include proximity to the City and Grafton campuses, the opportunity to integrate campus development, shared major transport routes with the City and Grafton campuses and additional space for student accommodation and other facilities to name a few," he said.

Should the university proceed with the acquisition, it would need to exit the Tamaki Campus in part or whole in order to rationalise its campus holdings both to help pay for, and maximise the benefits of, the new site.

Chancellor Roger France said the University Council was enthusiastic about the prospect of acquiring the Newmarket site.

"This is a wonderful opportunity not only to secure the university's growth path for the foreseeable future on a site close to the existing campuses, but also for the redevelopment of a site that is of critical importance to the City," he said.

The university was now conducting due diligence on the site and a decision on whether to go unconditional would be made at the council meeting next April, France said.

* This story has been changed because an earlier version stated that Auckland University would shift both its Epsom and Tamaki campuses to Newmarket. In fact, the Epsom campus will be shifted to the City Campus, not Newmarket.