Staff moving around Uni in $10m project

The University of Otago is planning to move operations staff to the Plaza Building. PHOTO: PETER...
The University of Otago is planning to move operations staff to the Plaza Building. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
University of Otago operations staff are moving to the Plaza Building next to Forsyth Barr Stadium as part of a $10 million project.

Chief operating officer Stephen Willis said operations group staff would be relocating to the building in Anzac Ave in place of the Pathway and English Language Centre which is moving to the university's business school.

Mr Willis stressed 85% of the $10 million expected cost of the project would go towards the Pathway and English Language Centre moving to the business school, with the remaining 15% on the operations staff shifting. 

The shift of operations staff was being made to "save space, save money, exit buildings, attract more students, and increase student accommodation and student-facing staff on the central campus".

"Reducing the space the group uses on our Dunedin campus will save money because our university’s second-biggest expense is owning, operating, maintaining and leasing buildings," Mr Willis said.

"Based on comparisons with other Australasian universities, Otago has far more space than it should need."

At present, the Plaza Building is occupied by the Pathway and English Language Centre, which will be moving on to the central campus early next year on the Otago Business School’s level 2 and part of level 3.

"Shifting the centre will bring its international and domestic students preparing for university-level courses on to the central campus, which will involve them in more campus activities, give them easier access to student support services and encourage more of those students to progress to university study," Mr Willis said.

"Moving operations group staff to the Plaza will also realise our campus master plan’s focus on having students and student-facing services on the central campus."

According to briefing notes supplied for the University Council, the project is expected to cost $10 million.

Tertiary Education Union organiser Daniel Benson-Guiu said the proposal was "interesting".

"We'd be hopeful that any areas where the university can save money on buildings and reduce the need to engage in management of change processes is positive for our members," Mr Benson-Guiu said.

"Our members have often been concerned that the university takes pride in its buildings when it should take pride in the people who run the classes, labs, libraries and administration spaces within these buildings."

Mr Willis said another driver for moving was getting property services and campus development staff out of 111 Albany St, which was at the end of its useful life and had low seismic ratings.

"We would also no longer need to lease 62 Albany St, which would save on annual operational costs," he said.

Mr Willis said some staff would have permanently allocated desks because they had specific needs.

Others would book a place to work in their team neighbourhoods, ensuring the space was used effectively.

"With many staff choosing to work from home at times, and all staff having five weeks’ annual leave, we are not anticipating a shortage of appropriate spaces for staff to work," he said.

A project team was gathering details from staff who were moving, then would work on the layout inside the Plaza Building.

"Many industries now have bookable spaces, but we know this change may be challenging for some staff and will be working hard to make the transition as easy as possible," he said

He said the Plaza Building would need only a few minor alterations for the operations group staff, who would move in about May next year.

The Plaza is about 11 minutes’ walk from the central campus.