The perpetual growth of the early 2000s began to level off in 2005 due to a number of factors, including relatively full employment and changes in the government funding of Adult and Community Education
Buoyed by earlier growth, 2005 was the year that Whitireia gained a new award-winning building but also prepared to say goodbye to its second chief executive.
The second stage of the Porirua campus redevelopment project was completed in 2005 when the $7.5 million Te Kete Wānanga came in under budget, entirely funded by the previous year's operating surplus. The building was blessed in a whakanoa on 21 April by Ngāti Toa, led by kaumātua Karewa Arthur, in preparation for its official opening by Prime Minister Helen Clark a month later on 26 May.
The building provided a new home for a number of services, including the library, known as Te Wakahuia, on both floors, Learning Skills in the offices of the outrigger section of the building's lower floor, and the Online Learning and Quality Development Centres on the second level.
Designed with curved wall and a continuous roof to symbolise a waka shed, the building is surrounded with a moat which flows into a repo or swamp, planted with reeds, which filters the water before it reaches the harbour. Inside, exposed concrete walls are used to moderate internal temperatures, are part of a passive ventilation system which allows for fresh air rather than air conditioning, while furnishings and the colour scheme reflect the exterior landscape and plantings.
For the opening, Prime Minister Helen Clark was welcomed by a karanga performed by the Ngāti Toa with putatara blown by Whitireia Performing Arts students. Accompanied by Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, chief executive Deirdre Dale and council chair Dennis Sharman , she entered a packed building filled with Whitireia staff and members of the community.
The Prime Minister spoke to the importance of the new building and its library. "The main focus of the Learning Centre is the new library. I am someone who is very passionate about libraries and books. I believe libraries are one of the most important facilities any education institution at any level can offer its students, whether we're talking about our kindies, our schools, or anywhere in tertiary education."
Te Kete Wānanga would go on to receive a number of awards from the New Zealand Institute of Architects, including the NZIA Resene Local Award for Architecture, the NZIA Wellington Branch Metro Glasstech Awards for Architecture 2005, and the NZIA Resene Colour Award. The landscaping around the building, designed by Wraight and Associates, also received an award in the New Zealand Institute of Landscape Architect's 2006 Pride of Place Landscape Awards. The award summary described how: "the masterplan for Whitireia reverses the previous ‘landscaping’ approach on the site – using plants to screen nondescript buildings in different styles – by re-exposing the buildings and instead developing strong axes and re-establishing a sort of wetland metaphor on the site. Buildings and associated boardwalk accessways now sit alongside sunken plantings of massed wetland species that echo site history."
Just as her predecessor, Turoa Royal, had bid farewell to Whitireia after ten years at the helm, so Deirdre Dale announced her retirement in 2005, leaving the following year after a decade as chief executive, and after a total of sixteen years at the institution. Council chair Dennis Sharman remarked that "Deirdre's contribution to Whitireia and the wider tertiary sector has been significant. Deirdre has done a superb job and we wish her well for the future."
Deirdre Dale spoke to Porirua City News about her time at Whitireia and said that "The most satisfying part for me is seeing what it meant to people for realising their hopes, their dreams, their future. It can make a life-changing difference."
It may look more like a dirty swimming pool at the moment. But at the beginning of February students at Whitireia Community Polytechnic will be utilising all this new multipurpose building has to offer.
Housing the library and student services, the Athfield Architects designed building will have its official opening in April. Marketing manager Alan Lough said it has cost about $7.5 million to build. Section one will be finished in time for the first term. "I think its fabulous. It's different, and it will look wonderful and appropriate, pointing out to the harbour."
Whitireia Community Polytechnic is combining an opening with an open day and a free show as a closing on Thursday, May 26.
Prime Minister Helen Clark will start the day by officially opening the new Learning Centre at the Porirua campus. This building houses a number of functions at the heart of good student learning.
As well as the upgraded library, the Learning Skills Centre is housed in the building. This centre helps students develop the skills they need to study successfully. The high success rate of Whitireia students, in both finishing and graduating from courses, is due in part to this innovative learning skills centre.
It is also home for the Online Learning Centre, which is the hub of all the courses offered ‘online’ via the internet, and last but not least is the Quality Development Centre which ensures all programmes and courses offered at Whitireia are academically approved and recognised by the community as quality offerings.
Roading authority Transit has created a new intersection after safety concerns over access to the campus and the Lindale Complex.
Whitireia Independent Student Association president Greg Henderson said it had taken a long time for the intersection to be built but it meant people wouldn’t have to tackle the dangerous State Highway 1 turn-off to get in and out of the campus, he said. The ceremony, on Monday, involved staff and students from the campus as well as a number of geese who took an interest.
Prime Minister Helen Clark opened the new building, Te Kete Wānanga at the Whitireia Polytechnic open day last Thursday. Te Kete Wānanga is the online learning centre and home to both the upgraded library and the learning skills centre. Both Porirua and Kāpiti campuses were open to the public during the day, with people at the Porirua campus treated to a special performance by Che-Fu in the early evening.
Whitireia Community Polytechnic chief executive Deirdre Dale has resigned from the top job. Ms Dale has been chief executive of the polytechnic for nine years and says it seemed the right time to move on, when she announced her retirement earlier this month. "I did try to retire a year ago but the council asked me to stay for a bit longer."
Ms Dale came to the polytechnic in 1989 as deputy chief executive, and then led Whitireia through a period of major expansion.
She says it was “very sad” to leave Whitireia and she is planning on staying in Plimmerton, but is unsure what she would end up doing in the future.
As for the highlights of her time at Whitireia? There are too many to mention – but "the highlights always seem to be the ones that have just happened." The growth of the polytechnic to a standing of national significance is one thing she is proud of, and the Pacific culture at Whitireia, she says.
Whitireia Council chairperson Dennis Sharman said Ms Dale would be greatly missed by the students and staff who have benefited from her time at Whitireia.