A Gradually Expanding Experience

  • <p>Aerial view of the university.</p>
  • <p>Looking across Princes Street showing the Arts Building, Auckland University with a car parked outside</p>

A Gradually Expanding Experience

Text for this tour has been kindly provided by Auckland Council.

The City Campus has gradually spread out over a site that has a rich, multi-faceted history. A Maori kainga (village) called Rangipuke was originally situated on what is now the Albert Park hill. From 1840, European settlement intensified and the Princes Street/Waterloo Quadrant area began to acquire a diverse range of public buildings. From the 1870s, elegant, substantial private homes for the city's business and professional elite began to line both Princes and Symonds Streets.

The Auckland University College, created in 1883, slowly began to colonise the area. But this process proved protracted, poorly funded and highly contentious. One persistent dispute was whether the University should acquire Government House and its grounds. Feelings ran high on the issue for almost a century. The New Zealand Herald's view 'that the University should snatch away this unique piece of land in the very centre of the city would be a robbery of the public' was widely endorsed. The often heated battle over a suitable university site continued unabated for much of the twentieth century. As late as 1944, the University planned to close down its central city campus and relocate to 44 acres of newly purchased farmland in Tamaki. However, the city site was not abandoned and in 1956 the Government finally offered the long coveted Government House to the University College. This acquisition proved decisive. From 1960 the University was able to embrace the central city site as its permanent home. A long overdue building programme rapidly ensued. As a result, the campus of New Zealand's largest university is now an attractive and intriguing blend of old and new buildings within easy walking distance of the heart of its largest city.

The work on which we are engaged - placing the advantages of a university education within the reach of every man and woman in Auckland - is one the importance of which it is almost impossible to overestimate. It is a work that will, I trust, influence not merely the immediate neighbourhood and the present generation, but also indirectly the whole colony, and that for all time.

- Governor Sir William Jervois, speaking at the formal opening of Auckland University College, 21 May 1883, at a ceremony in the crowded Choral Hall.

They have a choice of sites, superior sites, offering advantages in area and locality, which Government House grounds cannot lay claim to. But like the companions of Ulysses they have stopped their ears with wax, and are deaf to the Sirenic strains that would lure them from their purpose. They have shut their eyes to the attractions of more distant fields, and thus blind and deaf they sit all day chanting in monotonous unison their unvarying demand: 'We want Government House site.'

- New Zealand Herald columnist 'Mercutio', 24 August 1912.

Students and graduates of the last thirty years have little comprehension of how appallingly The University College was housed in its earlier years.

- Michael Fowler, Michael Fowler's University of Auckland, 1993

Text for this tour is Copyright Auckland Council.