Auck­land school wel­comes hor­ti­cul­ture

The Orchardist - - Careers - By Glenys Chris­tian

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.

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