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Source: University of Canterbury

11 June 2021

Prioritising best-practice student care, a strong partnership with mana whenua Ngāi Tūāhuriri, and sustainable design, the University of Canterbury’s (UC) new student accommodation building, Tupuānuku offered much to celebrate at the official opening held yesterday to coincide with Matariki.

  • UC’s newest student accommodation facility, Tupuānuku, was celebrated and officially opened yesterday with mana whenua Ngāi Tūāhuriri, providers UniLodge and partners including architects Jasmax, construction company Southbase, engineers Muir & Associates, quantity surveyors RLB and furniture suppliers Bishop Interiors Ltd.

Taurima | Residential Advisor and Environmental Science student Logan Carroll has lived at Tupuānuku since the facility opened at the start of the academic year, and told the audience that the inclusive environment had helped the 500 or so students to settle in easily and make new friends.

“Our team is quite diverse, with Pacific students, Māori students like me and Asian students, and that acceptance of culture extends to our rainbow community, which is strong here at Tupuānuku,” he said.

“There are many fantastic things about being here at Tupuānuku but from my own experience, I think we are one of the first halls to have a cultural narrative and that’s due to the support from mana whenua and from UC. I think that is a powerful message.” 

Ngāi Tūāhuriri worked closely with UC to ensure that Tupuānuku would be a whare [house] that values, respects and encourages mātauranga, tikanga and te reo Māori (Māori knowledge, protocols and language).

More than just a name

Tupuānuku is one of nine stars seen within the cluster of Matariki, Te Iwa o Matariki. It is the star that is connected to kai [food] and rongoā [medicines] that are grown in the soil, or are harvested from the ground. The name Tupuānuku can be translated as tupu or tipu, meaning to grow, and nuku, a shortened version of Papatūānuku or mother earth.

Matariki signals the new year within te ao Māori and plays a significant role in the māramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, in determining and planning for the year ahead.

The theme of Tupuānuku extends throughout the facility to the names of communal dining areas to the names of kahui [neighbourhoods] on each floor. Representing Ngāi Tūāhuriri and UC Corban Te Aika paid tribute to Ngāi Tūāhuriri’s Puamiria Parata-Goodall who led the cultural narrative for Tupuānuku, and much of the campus, and local master carver Faye Robinson who created the art work and cultural manifestations seen throughout.

A safe and supportive space

The approach was new for UniLodge, the provider chosen to run the new facility. “Unilodge recognises the unique role of Māori as Tangata Whenua and endeavours to implement bicultural policies and practices that incorporate and value Māori cultural concepts, values and practices,” Peter Bates, Executive Chairman of Unilodge New Zealand told the audience.

Based in Auckland, UniLodge NZ has developed strong relationships with many of New Zealand’s education institutions, including the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington, since commencing operations in 2003.

Excellent student care was a major priority for the new halls. “In Tupuānuku we are proactively working in partnership with the University to build a new concept in New Zealand for student wellbeing, with Taurima supporting the soft touches in the community, while having 24/7 operational UniLodge team members on duty to remove the traditional pressures and operational burden from the Taurima so they can focus on building a supportive community.

“Creating these new ways of working and thinking ensures a first-class service is provided to all residents in an environment that is dedicated to diversity, academic success and social support, and open to all students wishing to apply.”

Tupuānuku supports the use of all languages and is inclusive of all people from all cultures and backgrounds. Events and activities promote a sense of belonging, while common study areas and spaces for socialising encourage daily connection.

Home away from home

UC Tumu Kaunihera | Chancellor Sue McCormack congratulated the partner organisations and the staff from UC who worked on the project. She acknowledged the homely and “quite special” atmosphere and the thoughtful approach to caring for students.

“I am so pleased to see UC’s values – Whanaungatanga, valuing people and their differences, Manaakitanga, extending care and empowering others, and Tiakitanga, enhancing and nurturing our resources – being lived and breathed in the daily life of this facility,” she told the audience.

Tiakitanga is particularly evident in Tupuānuku’s sustainability credentials. Built to high energy efficiency standards, Tupuānuku is heated with renewable energy in the form of a ground-source heat-pump (GSHP) system. Cycling is encouraged with secure internal and external bike storage.

The rooms, including 29 accessible bedrooms with an ensuite bathroom, 375 single rooms with shared bathroom, 100 single rooms with an ensuite bathroom and 20 rooms for Taurima, are arranged around kahui [neighborhoods] to facilitate further connection. There are four gender neutral bathrooms on each floor.

The event closed with a stunning performance by Te Akatoki and kai [food] designed around theme of food from the earth.

Attendees at the official opening event included Tupuānuku partners architects Jasmax, construction company Southbase, engineers Muir & Associates, quantity surveyors RLB and furniture suppliers Bishop Interiors Ltd. 

Find out more about Tupuānuku here.