Your questions answered about the proposed development of Te Huanui.

Last updated 30 July 2020.

Why does the University want to redevelop this site?

The University wants to redevelop the site to provide modern teaching and research facilities and strengthen our physical connection to the city. Our vision for Te Huanui is that it will be the University’s ‘front door’ to Wellington. A safe and attractive pedestrian link will provide easy access for staff, students, and Wellingtonians to move between Kelburn and the central city.

Why did the University purchase the land?

The site is important to the University’s future because of its proximity to the Kelburn campus and its proximity to the city. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to enable our growth and also strengthen our connections to Wellington.

How did the University acquire the sites?

The University purchased the sites from Kāinga Ora—Homes and Communities (formerly Housing New Zealand). Both the Gordon Wilson Flats and the McLean Flats were built for social housing. Kāinga Ora assessed its ongoing needs for social housing, and subsequently decided to sell the sites. The University bought the Gordon Wilson site in 2014 and the McLean site in 2019. Both buildings were vacant on acquisition.

How will the University acknowledge the social history of these sites?

The McLean Flats will be repurposed and incorporated into Te Huanui’s research and teaching spaces. In 2018, the University supported a digital heritage project that allows viewers to take a virtual tour of one of the Gordon Wilson maisonettes.

Why can't the Gordon Wilson Flats be used for student accommodation?

The design of the Gordon Wilson Flats makes them unsuitable for meeting the educational, social, and pastoral needs of students. Examples of this include the size of spaces and the fact that existing balconies would need to be retained to preserve the exterior façade, yet pose a risk to student safety.

Why can’t the University repurpose the flats for other activities?

The costs associated with repairing and maintaining a decaying and failing building of the size and design of the Gordon Wilson Flats, makes it unviable to retain the structure. However, the McLean Flats can be repurposed, and this forms part of our application for resource consent.

What is the current zoning of the buildings?

The site currently occupied by the Gordon Wilson Flats is part of the University’s Institutional Precinct. Our proposal for Te Huanui requests the same zoning for McLean Flats, to maximise the potential of the entire site.

What is in this current resource consent application?

Our application requests that the land currently occupied by the McLean Flats is rezoned, so that it too becomes part of the University’s Institutional Precinct. We are also seeking consent to have the heritage listing on the Gordon Wilson Flats building removed so that we can demolish the building and begin redeveloping the site with world class research and teaching facilities, and attractive civic spaces.

Haven’t you already been turned down by the Environment Court?

In 2017, the rezoning of the Gordon Wilson Flats site from ‘Residential’ to ‘Institutional Precinct’ and the delisting of the Gordon Wilson Flats’ heritage status on the District Plan were challenged in the Environment Court. The zone change was allowed while the delisting of the Gordon Wilson Flats’ heritage status on the District Plan was not. This means that the building remains unable to be demolished.

How will the proposed redevelopment benefit Wellington?

The University is working with award-winning architects to ensure that the development features attractive facilities that are well suited to the site and have low environmental impact. The proposal will reinvigorate the south end of The Terrace and will provide a new civic space, in the form of a spacious entrance plaza, as well as a well-designed pedestrian link between the city, the University’s Kelburn campus and the Kelburn area. The McLean Flats will once again make a positive contribution to the local streetscape.

How is it that the University is facing a significant financial shortfall and yet is still going to invest in this?

The University views the Te Huanui proposal as a critical long-term investment in its future and the future of Wellington. Despite the financial constraints being experienced at the moment, it is important that decisions made now support our future growth and sustainability. The development will deliver economic, social, and cultural benefits to the University and the capital city over many years. The project represents a significant investment but the development will be staged to ensure it is affordable. The University has sold some assets in recent years, including the Karori campus and some housing stock, freeing up money for re-investment.

The University has previously said that the McLean Flats are unsafe and unsuitable for renovation. What has changed?

We have done some further work to find a way to integrate the McLean Flats with our proposed, modern research, and teaching facilities. This will require our investing in the strengthening and refurbishment of these flats.

What happens if the University is unsuccessful in its application?

Te Huanui proposes a way forward that we believe will deliver real value to our city, our country and the University. The University is not in a position to retain sites that it cannot use in the foreseeable future.

What is the timeline?

We are lodging an application for resource consent to proceed with Te Huanui. Any development is some years away pending our application being successful and would occur in stages.

Who can I contact for further information?

You can find out more about Te Huanui by emailing your questions to huanui@vuw.ac.nz.