Ecology hub proposed for Fairfield College land

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 13:17 14/04/2014
the fairfield project
Supplied/The Fairfield Project.

ECOLOGY HUB: A sustainable education centre is proposed for Fairfield College land which may otherwise be sold.

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Surplus land at a Hamilton college could be the site for a sustainable education centre and a project to span generations if a community proposal gets the go-ahead.

The Fairfield Project has developed the concept of a science and ecology-based education centre bordering the gully system at the back of the Fairfield College grounds.

In November last year the college announced at a community meeting that nearly half its grounds - about 10 hectares - could be sold if it couldn't find an educational use for the land.

Board of trustees chairman Bill O'Connor said it was struggling to maintain the land which was excess to the school's requirements.

The community opposed the sale and the steering group of residents set up soon after came up with the education centre proposal as an alternative.

It will be presented in a public meeting tonight and later to the school's Board of Trustees.

''We're excited to be proposing a cutting-edge ecological learning centre,'' said steering committee chairman Vic Arcus, professor of biology at Waikato University.

''This land is a jewel in the crown of Hamilton city. It's an amazing piece of green space in the middle of the city.''

He thought the centre would be the first of its kind in New Zealand and a chance for the Fairfield community ''to create something unique for Hamilton''.

Restoring the land around the centre - which would take around 50 years - would turn it into a ''resource of lasting value to the city''.

The centre was in the concept stage and the group wanted future users to be involved further consultation, the design and construction, Arcus said.

Current plans include a low environmental impact building largely powered by renewable energy, with an administration centre, seminar and teaching rooms, and teaching courtyards.It would also make the most of its site near the Kukutaruhe gully through teaching areas in it and on the uplands.

The gully is one of only two areas in Hamilton where there is a stable tui breeding population and carved wooden artefacts were recently found there.

The steering committee group worked to a tight timeframe to develop its proposal and consulted many groups, including hapu and iwi, councils and the Enviroschools Foundation, Arcus said.

A number of local schools were backing the centre and several were interested in using it. For the next phase, the Fairfield Project group has set a fundraising target of $50,000 for a detailed feasibility study based on concept drawings by Hamilton architect Antanas Procuta.

But for the project to go ahead, the Fairfield College board would have to support the idea and present it to the Ministry of Education, which had the final say, Arcus said.

The Fairfield Project proposal will be presented at a public meeting in the Fairfield College hall tomorrow night at 7.30pm.

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- Waikato

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