While the College may eventually move, development of the surrounding farm into a town will make sure the College finances will last for several more lifetimes.
“Our number one milestone was getting the Plan Variation through the Auckland Council,” says Wesley College Trust Board’s General Secretary Chris Johnston.
“Now that we have that, we can discuss how to proceed and apply for a development consent.”
The Trust Board, which owns the college, took the chance to generate more money by developing the site when the government identified the farm’s site as a potential SHA (Special Housing Area) in 2013. Rather than sell the land to a developer they decided to do it themselves. Boffa Miskell, an environmental planning and design consultancy, was asked to draw up a design.
The Trust is working on this with a Methodist Church business, PACT 2086 Trust in a joint venture with Grafton Downs Ltd.
The 211ha farm, which surrounds the 30ha school grounds, is a working farm bringing in $500,000 a year. A housing development would bring in a lot more. Students and boarders at Wesley College get subsidised by the Trust and the farm no longer covers this expense. The development will bring in several $100 million over 20 years, says Mr Johnston.
In the Plan Variation the Trust has ensured the college’s chapel achieve status as an historic building, thus safeguarding its future on the site. The new town is expected to have at least 4000 houses as well as schools, shops, and open spaces. Central to the new town is a sophisticated transit hub near the spot where Paerata used to have a train station.
Given that Auckland’s earthwork season starts in October, Mr Johnston expects the actual work on the site to start after 2016.
It is likely the College itself will move to a new site, he says.
“We are currently looking at a few potential sites. It will be the third time the College has moved. It started in 1844 in Grafton, moved to Three Kings in 1848 and came to Franklin in 1924.”