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Changing spaces for Otago’s Wellington campus

Wednesday 13 April 2022 3:41pm

wellingtonmain1The Harbour City Centre is one of two new spaces for the University's Wellington campus

The University’s Wellington campus is taking up new spaces in the central city’s Harbour City Centre, and in Newtown close to the hospital precinct.

The move follows the evacuation of the main Academic Block last August when it was given a low seismic rating in an independent assessment. Since then, most Wellington staff and postgraduate students have been working from home.

Dean and Head of Campus Professor William Levack says the new spaces signal a new start and herald new ways of working for staff and students who will be based across a range of campus locations.

Rautaki Hononga Māori (Māori Strategic Framework Project Manager) Toa Waaka led a takahia waerea blessing ceremony at the Brandon Street office at the end of March and staff began moving in the following week.

The open plan office space over two levels of the building will be home to academic and professional staff and some postgraduate students from the academic Departments of Public Health, psychological medicine and primary healthcare & general practice. Staff in the Education Unit, Interprofessional Education, External Engagement and reference librarians will also take up office space there.

Alongside the move to the central city, the University is establishing a student hub in an office building on Hanson Street close to Wellington Hospital in Newtown. The new accommodation spaces complement existing offices the University has taken up in the Ward Support Block of Wellington Hospital, and teaching spaces at Massey University and in prefabs on the Wellington Hospital campus.

wellingtonsecond Dean and Head of Campus Professor William Levack talks to staff at the Harbour City Centre takahia waerea blessing ceremony.

Professor Levack, who will divide his time between the Harbour City Centre and the Ward Support Block, says he’s excited to be able to bring students and staff back together in the new spaces, after the disruption of the past months.

“It’s been a huge upheaval for our 1,500 staff and students. We were faced overnight by losing 75 per cent of our office space, 90 per cent of our teaching space and almost all our laboratory space.”

Within days of the evacuation, staff and students were also dealing with a sudden move into a nationwide COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

Professor Levack said staff and students had continued with their work, study and research despite the challenges. “I’m very grateful to everyone for their patience, hard work and collegiality while we’ve organised these new spaces.”

He paid particular tribute to Senior Manager, Client Services, Phillip Kane, Organisational Delivery Project Manager Carrie Guthrie, Senior Project manager Steven Ireland, Health and Safety Advisor Jane Anderson, ITS staff, Heads of Department, Associate Deans, leaders of the research and teaching teams, and professional staff for going above and beyond to keep the campus operating.

Despite the challenges, the Wellington campus has continued to flourish, Professor Levack says. “Our staff continue to publish research papers, get grants, win awards, graduate new researchers and develop new physiotherapists, radiation therapists and doctors for Aotearoa’s workforce.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch congratulated staff and students on the move to new campus facilities. “I know how hard people have been working behind the scenes to organise new homes for the Wellington campus.

“As a Head of Department on the Christchurch campus when the 2011 earthquake struck, I appreciate how difficult it is to have to suddenly evacuate your building, and to be working from temporary premises, away from colleagues and friends. The efforts of staff and students to stay on track through the disruption have been exceptional.”

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences Professor Paul Brunton also praised staff and students for persevering with work and study through difficult circumstances.

“The Wellington campus has faced double challenges over the past seven months, dealing not just with the sudden closure of the academic block, but also with the move to COVID-19 lockdown. I want to put on record my heartfelt admiration and gratitude for the way everyone has supported each other through the disruption. Their efforts have been inspirational.”

Professor Levack said efforts were continuing to secure longer-term teaching and learning spaces and to find additional office space so all Wellington campus staff could be accommodated while the Academic Block was closed.