Historic Plunket rooms to nurture a new generation of students

Palmerston Norths old King St Plunket rooms have disappeared behind the builders screens awaiting earthquake strengthening and preservation work.
The 1929 brick building has been closed since 2012 when it was identified as earthquake prone, meeting less than a third of new building standards.

The building has been owned by UCOL since 1997, and was most recently used as a student health and support centre in sympathy with its original purpose.

UCOL director of facilities Peter Handcock said the heritage buildings exterior brickwork and tiled roof would be unchanged, faithful to its architectural values.

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Manawat Heritage
An old-style pram is parked on the doorstep of the Plunket Society Rooms in King St around 1939.

Inside, glass and heart rimu features would be preserved as much as possible, or recycled, as contractors Maycroft installed the seismic strengthening, including foundation work, steel bracing and a diaphragm in the ceiling.

The makeover project was pitched to the Palmerston North City Council with a proposed $300,000 price tag two years ago.

The city council granted $30,000 and its contribution, along with letters of support from Heritage New Zealand-Pouhere Taonga and the Royal New Zealand Plunket Trust, had helped get the project off the ground.

Foreman for Maycroft construction Rawiri Mintey, UCOL director of facilities Peter Handcock, Maycroft director Phil Wootton and UCOL project manager Elizabeth James discuss plans for the King St Plunket building.

An application for a grant had been made to the Lotteries environmental heritage fund.

Handock said one of the best ways to ensure the building was preserved and looked after was by having it used and occupied.

It would be altered inside to create a home for Workhub, with meeting rooms, breakout areas and an area where students could make connections with industry, businesses and not-for-profit organisations to gain work experience on real-world projects.

Workhub had already created opportunities for students on creative, business, computing, trades and health and science programmes.

Its street front and profile would make it easy for people from outside UCOL to find and use.

Students would have access around the clock to the work spaces.

Enabling work is starting, while final details of the building and resource consents are settled with the city council.

The building was expected to be completed by September.

Palmerston North's UCOL casts an imposing shadow over the former King St Plunket rooms.


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