“This was all sea here. They’ve reclaimed a lot of the land. The polytechnic was just a big pond, there was nothing here.” – Ihakara Arthur, Ngāti Toa Kaumatua
After funding had been secured by Education Minister Russell Marshall, plans for construction on a former mudflat in Porirua Harbour were put in motion in June of 1985. The six hectare mudflat had been reclaimed by using fill from Housing New Zealand developments, the Todd Motors site and the Elsdon industrial area. Ngāti Toa owned the land and had expressed to the government that it should be used for the building of a community educational institution, pointing out that this would benefit the community as a whole.
The tapu was lifted from the site in a dawn ceremony by Ngāti Toa kaumātua, including Wāra Katene, Patariki Te Rei, Māui Pomare, and Matua-a-iwi and Harata Solomon. The MP for Kāpiti at the time, Margaret Shields, turned the first sod, telling those in attendance that the ceremony was a momentous occasion and that the college was a hugely important development for the region.
Thus, what has been described as one of the fastest construction programmes in New Zealand educational history got underway, though much of the work was carried out in less than ideal conditions. Whitireia builder Wally Clay was involved in the construction and said “we had to work up to our knees in mud sometimes (…) It was a total bog over there.” Fortunately, the original buildings were mostly prefabs and the construction crews were able to get them up fairly quickly despite the mud.
While much remained to be done in terms of development around the site, the necessary buildings were completed in time for the first enrolments in February 1986, when Parumoana Community College officially opened its doors.
[Look out for the next ‘Thirty for 30’ instalment on the official opening of the campus in Porirua. Sign up to the blog to receive a notification as soon as it’s posted. You can also read our first instalment here: Thirty for 30: Origins]