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The Wellington City Council (WCC) has released a long awaited decision on the fate of the VUW’s Karori Campus, after the university announced in 2016 that the campus was no longer required.
WCC declared an interest in buying the university’s Karori campus and keeping it for community use, with some of the land to be transferred to the Ministry of Education.
Councillor Iona Pannett accused the university of “holding a gun to the council’s head over the sale,” while Vice Chancellor Grant Guildford fired back, saying “if councillors had done their due diligence there might be more informed debate about the matter.”
Karori Campus was infamously “purchased” by the university for $10 in 2014 — the nominal payment a formality required for the transfer of title.
The transfer was in line with a widely used policy, announced in 2010, that allowed tertiary education institutions to apply to acquire title to Crown-owned land and buildings that the institution already used and managed.
Iwi criticised the lack of consultation on the transfer, with University of Waikato Te Kotahi Research Institute director Leonie Pihama, of Te Atiawa, saying that “dominant Pākehā institutions continue to benefit nearly 120 years later from the confiscation of iwi lands.”
Following negotiations with the WCC and community to divest the campus, the university initiated plans to refurbish the Kirk Building on the Kelburn campus for the new Faculty of Education.
The relocation has drawn criticism as education students have been left with inadequate facilities and limited resources until the Kirk Building is upgraded.
Salient spoke to a lecturer from the Faculty of Education who stressed that the university had taken steps to make the transition as easy as possible, repainting the Boyd Wilson Arena and adding storage — “to be fair the university went to quite a lot of trouble to create a teaching space.”
However they conceded the space is “not ideal,” with the courses having to pack away practical resources at the end of every session, due to other classes and clubs using the space.
An education student was more critical of the move, saying: “It’s really destabilising. A lot of teaching students are only here for a year, and having no stable base makes it really hard to build a community in that time.”
“We’ve shown up to locked rooms, been relocated after a couple of classes, and had meetings in the Hub. We often hear how courses have been altered to accommodate a lack of resources.”
The university commented on the change of resources, saying that the loss of the specialist education space was “offset by the advantage of education students being an integral part of the student community at Kelburn, with access to VUWSA facilities, cafés, gym, the comprehensive library and study spaces, and other student facilities.”