The first step has been taken this week towards establishing a $55 million university campus in Tauranga's central business district.
The Tauranga City Council has agreed to provide the land for the campus – the outdoor car parking area in Durham Street.
A design drawing of the campus superimposed over the Durham Street car park site where it will be built.
It is being built by a tertiary education partnership of the University of Waikato, the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi.
The campus will be the first in the country established by such a partnership, though there is a similar partnership idea being floated concerning the Canterbury rebuild.
The city's agreement to provide the car park as the land for the project is the key to getting other partners involved in the design build side of it.
It's being undertaken as a Bay of Plenty initiative because neither the government nor the university can do it alone, or without free land.
The 0.4 hectares is being kept in council ownership and vested in the tertiary trust.
It's essentially a 33-year loan, by which time the campus is expected to be able to pay rent.
The parking lots provide $110,000 in annual income to the council.
The loss of this income, and a request to waive development impact fees, caused much discussion among councillors when deciding on the issue.
There was an amendment voted on to keep the parking issue alive, with a codicil by Councillor Larry Baldock that the council would, if required, revisit the issue if the council's stance threatened the project.
Councillor David Stewart says the long term benefits of the city campus will far outweigh the parking income.
Waikato University, with 10,500 full time equivalent students, brings $130 million into Hamilton every year.
The initiative is a response to a demonstrated need for further tertiary facilities in the Bay of Plenty and the inability of the tertiary institutions to provide them.
Tertiary institutions do not have the resources to establish new facilities, government capital funding is not available, and the capping of domestic student numbers limits tertiary provision to current levels.
University of Waikato Professor Natalie Jackson says the Bay of Plenty needs increased tertiary education.
Her demographic study shows there will soon be fewer young people in the region than are currently leaving secondary school to enter tertiary training or the workforce.
The problem is magnified because a large proportion of Bay of Plenty students leave the region to go to other university cities – while at the same time, many Bay of Plenty industries are facing a shortage of people to replace their retiring older employees.
The city campus will increase the ability of the city's tertiary network to retain young people and Maori within the Bay of Plenty and enable first generation students to study at university level without leaving the region.
University of Waikato Vice Chancellor Professor Alister Jones says it will also attract foreign students to study at Tauranga at a postgraduate level, and research funding.
The campus will provide tertiary education from pre-degree to postgraduate and a university experience for the community, industry and schools.
With a focus on innovation, it will be used for teaching and research, business incubation, schools technology and science engagement, management and executive education, and research and development projects.
A viable campus requires a size of 1-1.5ha says Alister, additional land which will eventually be bought.
The entire Cameron-Elizabeth-Durham block is designated for educational purposes.
If construction starts this year, stage one will open in 2015 for 500 full time students, but with capacity for 700.
Construction of stage two would take place in 2019 to create capacity for 1000 full time students, followed by stage three in 2025/26 to create capacity for 1500 students by 2032.
The 0.4ha car park land provided by the council will enable construction of stages one and two.
Mayor Stuart Crosby says just building the campus will provide a boost to the city's building and construction industry.
There will also be spin offs with private developers stepping up to provide student accommodation.