Epsom schools worried about possible new housing development next door

March 20, 2024

Epsom schools worried about possible new housing development next door

This 15-hectare campus in Epsom was formerly the location of the Faculty of Education Social Work. Photo: Ben McQueen.

The Epsom community is concerned that the empty University of Auckland’s Epsom campus will be used for housing intensification, putting pressure on local schools.

According to the University’s website, The Faculty of Education and Social Work was relocated from the Epsom campus to the city over the summer break in preparation for the 2024 academic year.

Principal Alison Spence of Kohia Terrace School is concerned about a possible housing development, because her school borders the campus. She fears that a potential increase in the local population might overcrowd her school.

According to Ms Spence, the school currently has around 400 children, and so would need a complete rebuild to have capacity for the possible influx of new students.

“It would mean that we would lose what is special about Kohia now in terms of our school size and the sense of community that we value.”

Similarly, Auckland Normal Intermediate (ANI) Deputy Principal Scott Boniface has little doubt over the future of the empty campus which sits directly opposite his school.

“It’s a shame but I do think they’ll bowl [it] down and build hundreds and hundreds of apartments.”

Mr Boniface is also uneasy about the possibility of housing intensification next door and how that might impact ANI’s ability to accommodate local children.

“Our role will increase because we are at capacity now. So, if we have another two or three hundred students enrol, then we would need to build extra spaces.”

The school just finished years of rebuilding after a fire in 2019; a difficult process to undertake while still teaching students on site, he says.

The relocation of the Epsom campus is meant to allow students easier access to the clubs and support services which are concentrated on the city campus, according to the University of Auckland’s website.

Te Waha Nui contacted the University about the future of the campus, but it declined to provide specific details about any divestment plans at this early stage.

“When we have further clarity of the pathway forward, we will provide updates via the public website and media,” the University said in an email.

There has been some interest from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, who want to re-acquire land as it holds cultural significance, according to a New Zealand Herald article.

It is the site of Te Pou Hawaiiki; a sacred volcanic crater where early Māori settlers placed soil from their homeland Hawaiiki, and which was quarried away and developed in the early 1900s.

Ms Spence believes that any development of the property should incorporate the land’s Māori heritage.

“I think for sure [it should] still recognise Te Pou Hawaiki and that sacred bit of land that was once there that got destroyed.”

Follow these links to hear more of the interviewees’ thoughts on the future of the property:

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