Coun­try comes to city school


A new $14 mil­lion agri­cul­ture hub in cen­tral Auck­land is be­ing de­vel­oped to get young peo­ple in­ter­ested in the ru­ral sec­tor.

Since 1932 Mount Al­bert Gram­mar School (MAGS) has been leas­ing 8 hectares of farm­land from ASB Bank for a nom­i­nal fee of $1 a year.

Now the site is be­ing de­vel­oped to in­clude five new class­rooms along with up­graded build­ings, re­paired fences and new plant­ing.

Re­source con­sent for the de­vel­op­ment was granted in June.

Min­is­ter for Pri­mary In­dus­tries Nathan Guy was at the sod turn­ing cer­e­mony last Fri­day.

Guy said it was one of the most sought af­ter pas­tures of land in Auck­land and would be mod­ernised into a cut­ting-edge teach­ing fa­cil­ity called the Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre.

There will be a vine­yard, a hy­dro­pon­ics build­ing and a sheep shearing fa­cil­ity - all pow­ered by so­lar en­ergy - where stu­dents will learn an­i­mal han­dling, dairy and hor­ti­cul­ture pro­duc­tion, food prepa­ra­tion and science.

‘‘The Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre will demon­strate the in­no­va­tion, science and en­vi­ron­men­tal best prac­tices used on farms across New Zealand,’’ Guy said.

Guy said the Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre would lift MAGS teach­ing ca­pac­ity in agri­cul­tural and hor­ti­cul­tural science and agribusi­ness from 160 stu­dents to 500.

It would also ed­u­cate 25,000 stu­dents from across Auck­land each year.

‘‘Three buses full of stu­dents from other schools will visit the Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre each day,’’ Guy said.

In­ter­na­tional trade del­e­gates, in­dus­try stake­hold­ers and tourists would also visit, he said.

ASB’s gen­eral man­ager Richard He­gan said New Zealand’s agri-food sec­tor made up 67 per cent of the coun­try’s ex­ported goods but faced a huge chal­lenge.

Too few young peo­ple were choos­ing a ca­reer in the agri-food sec­tor - which needed to source 50,000 more em­ploy­ees within the next 10 years, he said.

‘‘The Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre will show­case the ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties the sec­tor of­fers.’’

Mount Al­bert Gram­mar School year 12 stu­dent Fa­tima Im­ran said most Auck­land kids have never been on a farm be­fore.

The Ex­pe­ri­ence Cen­tre would open peo­ple’s eyes to New Zealand’s pri­mary sec­tor, she said.

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