Dunedin's largest construction boom in decades is about to
begin, with the University of Otago revealing plans to spend
$650 million upgrading its campuses.
The university for the first time yesterday released the
schedule and total cost of its massive 15-year ''priority
development plan'', which involves more than 20 projects and
is expected to create ''hundreds'' of jobs for Dunedin.
The plan includes a project to demolish the university's
six-storey 1969-built arts building and its property services
building, both in Albany St, and develop a ''humanities
precinct'' in their place.
A ''teaching, learning and research'' space is to be built in
Portobello to replace the university's old aquarium building,
which has been closed since 2012 after it was found to be
The plan was for the space, scheduled to be completed at the
start of 2016, to serve as a ''medium-term'' solution ahead
of building a completely new aquarium, probably in the
harbour basin area. A new music facility, including a centre
of performing arts, is also planned for near the existing
music studio in Albany St.
Naylor Love chief executive Rick Herd said the
programme represented Dunedin's largest building boom in
decades and would bring ''hundreds'' of jobs to the city.''
It's a major positive for the construction industry in the
Dunedin area and it's certainly going to create jobs and
'A lot of local industries, particularly people like
electricians, plumbers and mechanical services people, should
be given a bit of confidence to be taking on apprentices and
training people,'' Mr Herd said.
That the building programme was spread over about 15 years
was also ''very helpful'', as recent projects such as Forsyth
Barr Stadium had been ''one-offs''.
Otago University chief operating officer John Patrick
yesterday told staff about the university's plans, which were
later released to the Otago Daily Times.
Its ''priority projects'' were ranked, with the replacement
of its ageing dental school - previously estimated to cost
between $50 million and $100 million - taking top spot.
Construction was planned to start on the dental school in the
third quarter of next year and finish at the end of 2019.
The ''significant redevelopment'' of the university's science
precinct, including the construction of new teaching and
research laboratories, took second spot, with new research
project facilities third on the list.
A new ''biomedical research'' building was also planned,
concentrating research now spread throughout the Dunedin
campus into one development in the south of the campus.
The programme includes the continuation of the university's
seismic strengthening work and major maintenance projects,
such as refurbishment of buildings in the historic precinct,
including the clocktower building.
Outside Dunedin it planned to complete the refurbishment and
seismic strengthening of its Wellington (UOW) facilities and
build a ''major new facility'' in the new Christchurch (UOC)
health precinct. Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said the
plan was about improving the campus environment for both
staff and students.
''We want to improve what is already a first-class experience
for students, for teachers and for researchers, and we want
the campus to be enjoyed by the communities in which we
live,'' Prof Hayne said.
The university council had agreed to the priority development
plan ''in principle'', but the plan was a living document and
projects could yet be added, or removed, as situations and
Mr Patrick said the university intended not to resort to
''large-scale'' borrowing to fund the programme.
''Currently, the university does not use debt to fund capital
projects, but looking ahead, may want to do this,'' Mr
Patrick said. The university needed to invest in its
facilities to be successful and without the investment its
position as a top institution would be put at risk.
''[Without investment] it is likely the university would see
a drop in research and teaching quality as it would be
difficult to attract the best staff and the brightest
The two major risks of the plan were controlling costs and
ensuring it generated enough funding ''to pay for it all''.
''We are aware of the risks and the options we have to
Mr Patrick was excited to see the plan come to fruition.
''Any new developments that improve the quality of this
fantastic university and its beautiful campus are exciting
for me and a source of pride.''
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the programme underscored that
tertiary education was the ''most important'' industry in the
The city was lucky to have such a well-run institution, but
could not take the university for granted.
''We have got to ... maintain the city's attractiveness to
the kind of people we want to be studying or teaching at our
''We have got to look across the board at the standard of our
housing, the cycleway infrastructure and all the recreational
and cultural offerings of the city.''
Mr Cull, who is a member of the university council, said an
''enormous amount of research and planning'' had gone into
the university's plan.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who was visiting
Dunedin yesterday, hailed the programme as a ''comprehensive
plan'' which would take the university to the ''next level''.
The plan was in part possible because the Government had
continued to increase funding for the university in what had
been tough economic times, he said.