He pā anamata—Building a sustainable future

Imagine stepping into a modern, uniquely Māori precinct on campus, designed using gold standards for sustainability in the built environment.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Professor Rawinia Higgin and Director of sustainability Andrew Wilks.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Professor Rawinia Higgins (left), and the Director of Sustainability, Andrew Wilks

That is the intent of The Living Pā, a proposal that would see the area around the University’s Te Herenga Waka marae on Kelburn Parade transformed into a multi-purpose space for teaching, learning, research, and engagement.

The project is founded on the twin pou—or pillars—of mātauranga Māori and sustainability. The work will be guided by the internationally recognised Living Building Challenge, putting the University at the forefront of sustainable design. The Challenge requires everything, from building materials to water use and the reuse or removal of existing buildings, to be managed in a sustainable way.

The existing wharenui (carved meeting house) built more than 30 years ago will be at the heart of the new complex and the additional, connected facilities will combine mātauranga Māori with cutting-edge environmental and technological features. These include closed-loop systems to gather, use, and recycle water, and solar power generation for the building’s energy needs.

“This complex will reshape our understanding and relationship with the environment to promote a sustainable future,” says Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Professor Rawinia Higgins. “Māori have a deep relationship and connection with the environment that is synonymous with sustainable practices, making the proposal to utilise the Living Building Challenge a natural fit.”

She says a plan to redevelop the marae precinct has been a dream for more than
30 years. “The Living Pā is an exciting, expansive project that will enable us to raise the scale, quality, and profile of mātauranga Māori and sustainability in ways that will benefit both the University and the wider community.”

The proposed new space will accommodate growth in students and staff, and increase the University’s capability for civic, culturally affirming, and progressive engagement. The director of sustainability, Andrew Wilks, says it is a fantastic opportunity for the University to show leadership in sustainable development in a way that goes far beyond just a building.

“The Living Pā represents innovation and ambition plus. The idea is that it generates all its own resource needs, such as energy, and creates a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with it,” he says.

Rawinia and Andrew stress that The Living Pā has a focus on a sustainable future. “The Living Pā is about the sustainable future of a people, a language, culture, knowledge, and the environment for future generations.”

The Living Pā vision

He pā mataora. He pā kaiao. He pā anamata. A thriving community. A living lab. A bright future.