More than $290,000 has now been committed to the Katikati Innovative Horticulture Project - a centre of excellence for horticulture - to warrant plans being drawn up and suppliers being approached ahead of construction starting at Katikati College.

The building, including compliance and fit-out expenses, is estimated to cost $432,000.

Innovative Horticulture Project manager, Hilary Johnson says it is hoped the purpose-built facility will be finished in time to start welcoming students halfway through 2021.

Constructed on the school grounds the facility will bring together educational, skills and training providers under one umbrella. It will be available to students and adults seeking careers in the horticulture industry or going on to university.

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The trustees for the project are talking with local building companies to draw up detailed plans and specifications and while this will take a little time, the basic concept is very much agreed on.

"We need a structure that is simple and all about function," says Hilary.

The building must allow for multiple and flexible teaching/learning and meeting spaces of various sizes.

This will mean sliding walls, partitions, and clever distancing between areas to allow multiple areas to be in used at once, whether by different groups or the same group. Toilets and a shower are a must for a stand-alone building.

Also in the plan is a very basic kitchen area allowing for the processing of horticultural produce as well as life skills training for community students.

A conceptual image of the new horticulture building being proposed with an additional 4m wide verandah providing an extra learning area.
A conceptual image of the new horticulture building being proposed with an additional 4m wide verandah providing an extra learning area.

Technological opportunities such as tissue culture and hydroponics already offered by the Katikati College programme cry out for some dedicated areas such as a small laboratory, with a sterile space.

"Our basic concept at this stage is a 12m x 16m colour steel barn with a mezzanine floor and a 4m wide colour steel veranda stretching along the 16m side.

"That side would have three or four large doors, effectively turning the open but covered area into an extra teaching/learning and meeting space," Hilary says.

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The concept design will easily accommodate 80-100 people undertaking various activities at any one time.

Some of the 75 students studying horticulture at the college were clearly excited about moving out of their cramped prefab classroom when they gathered at the location of the eagerly awaited Innovative Horticulture Centre on the back field last Thursday.

Once the building is finished, the Katikati Innovative Horticulture Trust will focus on establishing a nursery on the site.

The trust's research has indicated considerable demand across New Zealand for roadside plantings, such as native grasses and flax.

The plan is for students to grow and sell the plants so the facility becomes self-sustaining, funding its own rates, improvements as well as running costs.

The building will be owned by the Innovative Horticulture Trust. Hilary says the Ministry of Education has agreed to this.

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"The Ministry says the project provides a unique opportunity to the students of Katikati College, and looks to enable a pathway for students to the work force or future educational training, and is supportive of the school pursuing this endeavour."

■ To find out more visit www.katikatiihp.com