Auckland school welcomes horticulture
Horticulture will have a strong presence in the new Experience Centre to be built at Auckland’s Mt Albert Grammar School (MAGS).
The $13 million building will have a specific horticultural area included along with its five full-size laboratory classrooms, as well as a double height hydroponics room. And the farmland on which it is to be built will feature an orchard, vineyard and market gardens.
In mid-September the then Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, turned the first sod for the project which aims to showcase all agriculture has to offer, not only to school pupils but also to visiting groups and tourists.
“It’s a fantastic initiative, with one million people within 45 minutes’ drive,” he said.
“It will be a game-changer for the primary sector in the future.”
He believes there is a big challenge ahead to get more students into careers in agriculture to fill the positions forecast to become available, half of which would be in highly qualified positions. This will help close what he called the divide between urban and rural residents, as agriculture competes with law and medicine as a career choice. Agriculture is going to become even more technical than at present, and exporters wanting to add value to their products on the international stage need to be more creative, he said.
In 1932 the ASB Bank gifted to MAGS a lease of 8.1ha next door to it, for which it had paid 2,000 pounds.
In 2012 a 99-year lease was signed at a rate of $1 a year to ensure that the land would be kept safe, and MAGS could continue to teach students the fundamentals of agriculture there. It has around 160 of its 2,900 students enrolled at present in these courses, but it’s hoped that will now quickly rise to over 500.
Plans for the Experience Centre were announced in 2015, and the building designed by JasMax has now been consented by Auckland Council. It will be interactive and educational with a focus on the reality of modern, sustainable farming, offering animal handling and practical demonstrations of dairy and horticulture production, food preparation and science. While there will be a concentration on explorative, hands-on techniques, it will also be able to be set up for seminars and conferences.
The ASB MAGS Farm Advisory Committee is now responsible for raising the funds required with founding partners which include Plant & Food Research, Landcorp, Forest Growers, Fonterra, NZXAgri, KPMG, Ravensdown and PGG Wrightson.
KPMG’s global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, said that there is nothing like the Experience Centre anywhere else in the world.
“It will tell the story of agrifood and the sustainable production of food, fibre and timber for the world’s most affluent consumers,” he said.
The plan is to have up to 25,000 students from other schools coming in by bus to visit the Experience Centre every year to learn more about what the primary sector does and the career opportunities available to them.