At an estimated cost of around $80,000,000, The Pā project represents a significant reorganisation of the Hamilton campus. The idea was a simple one, create a large-scale facility that serves as a Marae, a conference facility, kitchen, retail outlets, concert venue, and a student hangout. It’s fair to say we had our doubts as to the success of the venture. A few years on and we are starting to come around. We’re still sceptical but it sounds like this may actually be the thing this campus needs. We sat down with Director of Regional Engagement Joseph Macfarlane, to get a better understanding of this proposal.
Nexus: The Pā is nearing its next approval stage, would you say you’ve got the plans pretty well locked down?
JM: We are making good progress with the plan and concept, and over the last few months, there has been solid engagement with students and WSU—thanks to Candra and Nathan. We are in the process of putting the Pā concept under the scrutiny of a number of user and advisory groups, and while the plans are holding up well and becoming more refined, there remains a myriad of issues still to be resolved and numerous decisions to be made. We are grappling with major things like the optimal size for the Wharenui and the large atrium that forms the Student Hub, and other smaller scale—but significant—considerations such as where we might place the reheat/microwave stations.
In terms of the approval process, we are looking toward December when the University Council will consider the Pā project for ultimate approval and investment. If it is approved, things will move quickly in 2019 with decanting and site preparation, and a major construction project will be underway. It’s great to have this opportunity to update students via Nexus, and it will be important to keep students informed of the progress of the complex as things progress.
Nexus: Can you tell us a bit about the consultation with students/external stakeholders and how many hours have gone into this?
JM: The consultation around the Pā has been thorough, and it is ongoing. Throughout the last two months, in particular, we have had some excellent exchanges with WSU reps and student reps through workshops convened by Candra and Nathan. The ideas and guidance have been a huge help.
Noting too that the project has enjoyed a positive engagement with students since the discussions first began in 2015 via Indula as WSU president, followed by William, and now Candra—all members on the project’s Design Advisory Committee and Project Control Group, and great advocates for the Student Hub concept.
When the first concept designs for the Pā were developed in June 2016, we set up display panels in the Student Centre and received a lot of rich and helpful feedback from students. We will set up something similar in the weeks ahead to display the concept designs and images, and hopefully, students will again take up the opportunity to feed in comments and ideas.
Nexus: Whenever these projects start, it’s usually about compromising the vision to suit everyone—are you reasonably happy with the final product?
JM: Yes—I think people involved with the project are happy with the way things are tracking. The many and varied conversations have been immensely helpful, and the emerging vision, concept and plan is exciting and gives us a lot of hope. The final product is still over three years away, and the indicator for success will be that we have positively transformed the experience for students and the wider campus community through the building of this complex.
Nexus: We’ve heard there’s a stage/conference facility within this, is this something that students will be able to utilise?
JM: Absolutely. There is a major stage facility as a feature of the Student Hub—you will see it in the concept drawings. It is intended to be a prime space for students—in the everyday Student Hub mode and as a performance or events space. We would love to see Te Waiora up on stage practising and performing, and to see the students from the Music Department, or indeed from any other department, performing during Cultural Hour, or any other time of the day. We will also be glad to see students just dragging beanbags on to the stage for some chill time or using the stage space for meetings or study groups. The intention is also that we bring graduation back to campus, and the Hub is where our graduation celebrations and other events will be held.
Nexus: At the Wintec Hub they’ve got a range of charging hubs and readily configurable furniture/spaces, how do you stay true to Tikanga Maori while operating a commercial and educational facility all round?
JM: We have the country’s best and finest when it comes to tikanga advisory for The Pā. Right from the outset, the advice from our chief advisors has been to push the boundaries of what is possible and to challenge the status quo to make a statement on behalf of our university. It’s an exciting brief to work with. If the facility is well designed, the tikanga will flow easily through the complex. It's a major challenge, but we are up to the task. Charging hubs are firmly on the radar too.
Nexus: What are the educational opportunities for places like the Māori and Indigenous studies?
JM: It is great to have the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies: Te Pua Wānanga ki Te Ao right in the heart of the new complex. This concept of combining Faculty space, student space, cultural and executive space all under the one roof has never been done before by any university in the world. Ultimately, the driver for the Pā is to positively transform the on-campus experience for the campus community and students in particular. Its a challenging but exciting brief and if it can be done anywhere, it is here at our University.
Nexus: There hasn’t been much mention about sustainability, can you talk more about how you’re incorporating these?
JM: Sustainability is a constant and it’s good to be asked about it. The use of timber as the primary building material is a major sustainability measure, and the retention and restoration of A Block is a significant environmental consideration also. As one would expect, the complex will maximise—and manage—natural light throughout, and the facility is being designed with natural heating and ventilation systems. The Pā also has a landscaping plan that emphasises the quality of our university grounds and retains many of the native trees which currently extend across the University’s Hillcrest Rd frontage. Other options for energy generation and use, and water recycling are still being considered.
Nexus: There’s going to be a large kitchen there, will this be available for students or will there be microwave banks?
JM: We are still looking at the detail around access to microwave banks, food heating and preparation facilities. Definitely, there will be reheat stations, but we are thinking more broadly too around food options in the Pā and price points in the retail and kitchen spaces. Again, the feedback from students has been a huge help, and there are decisions still to be made.
Nexus: We heard on the low that the VC will have a secret cocktail lounge for entertaining guests, can you confirm these suspicions?
JM: I can confirm that the suspicions are kind of true—but kind of not. True in that we are exploring a space for hosting guests and visitors to the University and it will be proximate to the VC suite. But it will be space for the staff of the University to use as a hosting space and common area also. The decision is still to be made regarding cocktails and other beverages! Currently, there are some challenges to this concept in relation to how it might operate, so I shouldn’t say too much—no wonder you think it’s a secret.
Nexus: Will there be outdoor catering options?
JM: The outdoor spaces on the north and eastern sides of the Pā are going to be awesome spaces to activate through the summer, and the plan anticipates the presence of coffee and kai carts, and provides for outdoor seating also—around the retail space and along the main campus walkway that runs between Te Manawa (Student Centre) and The Pā.
Nexus: What will this achieve in terms of campus stickability? Will this adhere to that 9 to 5 mentality?
JM: The Pā is a major part of the effort to make our campus a ‘sticky campus’ for students, staff and the community. During term time, the Pā will be fully activated as a Student Hub and will need to at least reflect the extended hours of Te Manawa. We are planning for the Pā to be a busy and vibrant space all year round—to be activated as a student hub during the term, and then to be put to good use as a conference, events and community space in between.