Colin Maiden Memories

The Background

The following was written by Sir Colin Maiden in 2006-07 and provides an insight into the development of sporting facilities at Auckland University. Maiden was Vice-chancellor of Auckland University from 1971 to 1994. The playing fields at Merton Road (previously known as University Park) were renamed Colin Maiden Park in 1994 in recognition of Sir Colin's vision in ensuring that sporting facilities are an integral part of a complete tertiary education.


One of my first emotions on returning to the University was of disappointment in seeing how poorly off it was for student amenities. The Student Union complex, designed by Miles Warren of Christchurch, was nearly complete and provided adequate catering and bar facilities, a bookshop and Students Association offices. Also there were Student Health, Counselling and Accommodation services, but no theatres or recreational facilities. O'Rorke Hall and International House were the only two substantial halls of residence.

The Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) was a legal entity in its own right with its fees, including a buildings levy, collected by the University. AUSA managed the Student Union complex under policies determined by the Student Union Joint Management Committee of Council. I always had difficulty in understanding why AUSA insisted on managing the catering facility, which was a very demanding business, rather than concentrating their efforts on student clubs and other activities.

In February 1971 I addressed the students in a packed Quad of the Student Union on, 'The University's Role and Growth.' In particular I said that I would like to see more student facilities, but these would be a few years away. Not long after Bill Spring, the student President, asked if I could help to get a theatre for the students and the University. I inquired as to what was the problem and was told that it was a money issue. The AUSA had monies available from their Building Fund and the University had the proceeds from some endowment properties, but this was not enough to complete the project.

On my first visit to the University Grants Committee in Wellington I decided to raise the matter of the theatre. I was in my "honeymoon period" and I thought they would want to start the relationship off on a good footing and try to be helpful. My intuition was right and I came away with a commitment from the UGC to provide a grant to meet the financial shortfall.

I returned to Auckland buoyant with my success only to be brought down to earth with a terrible thud. In my absence the first issue of the year of Craccum, the student newspaper, had been published and in it were three rather nasty articles attacking my address to the students. The authors were Stephen Chan, Editor of Craccum, another student, Sue Kedgley, and Wystan Curnow, a lecturer in the English Department. I was hurt and my confidence in public speaking, which was fragile at the time, took a knock which lasted for some time. Perhaps the authors were  just letting me know who was boss! I fronted Stephen Chan and Sue Kedgley in the AUSA offices about their remarks and I think this helped. In particular, Stephen Chan became very friendly and many years later, as Dean of Arts at the University of Kent in the UK, he recommended that I sit on an advisory body to the University. Looking back on my address to the students I don't think it was too bad!

The formal approval of a grant of $110,000 from the UGC for the theatre came through and detailed design began. The building was to have a main auditorium seating 400 and a 100 seat workshop theatre. Construction started and nearly every day I would walk around the site reviewing progress. The complex was opened in November 1973 and named after my predecessor, Dr Maidment, who was present at the ceremony. The President of the Students Association, Mr Ed Haysom, said, "The name chosen expresses the gratitude the Association has felt over the years for the interest shown in students by Dr Maidment." The success of the Maidment Theatre through the years has pleased me greatly.

I was enthusiastic to obtain better recreational and sporting facilities for the students. When I arrived there were no such facilities on campus but there were two playing fields available to students in Shore Rd. The Chancellor, Henry Cooper, informed me that the Centenary of the Auckland Harbour Board was coming up and suggested that I talk to their Chief Executive, Bob Lorimer, about the University's desire for an adequate playing field complex. I met with Bob Lorimer and Gordon Burgess, a former New Zealand representative cricketer, in their offices and told them my tale of woe. Their response was very positive. They told me that the Harbour Board was planning to announce certain community-oriented initiatives to celebrate their Centenary. One of these possible initiatives was the development of a marine park in Hobson Bay. They suggested that a University recreation area, on reclaimed land at the southern end of the Bay, could be incorporated into the plan. I was delighted with the suggestion. On the way out, I happened to mention that I was interested in broadening the subjects offered by the Faculty of Commerce and, in particular, was looking for support to fund a Chair in Business Studies. Bob Lorimer thought this was a good idea.

The Auckland Harbour Board duly announced their Centenary projects and they included both the University recreation area in Hobson Bay and $50,000 over five years for the establishment of a Chair in Business Studies. The University Council was very grateful for these gifts. The Chair in Business Studies was advertised and Dr Brian Henshall took up his appointment in 1973. I knew Brian in the US when he worked for the Aerospace Corporation in San Bernadino, California, and had encouraged his application for the position.

The University's site consultants, Kingston, Reynolds, Thorn and Allardyce (KRTA), started work on the design of the playing field complex in conjunction with the Auckland Harbour Board. A major complexity of the marine park project was that an Act of Parliament was required to permit reclamation of the seabed. It was not obvious that this Act would be approved. Also, as time went by, the opposition to such a reclamation started to mount, both within and without the University. After a while I concluded that the odds were against the project ever coming to fruition so, on the quiet, I had our site consultants start to look at the possibilities at Tamaki.

In 1944 the Auckland University College purchased 120 acres of farmland at Tamaki for £14,200 for a new University site. The University funded the acquisition from the sale of rural endowment lands. At that time the future of the University, on an inadequate Princes Street site, was uncertain. The purchase led to bitter rows over the site on which it was to develop and the battle continued unabated until 1960 when it was decided to stay in the city. When I took up my appointment the University still owned the property which, at that time, resembled a wasteland of noxious weeds and scrub.

Our site consultants concluded that a playing field complex at Tamaki was a viable proposition, subject to zoning and various other conditions. Also I had met with Rob Fisher, Rob Hargrave and Ken Baguley from the University Rugby Club and obtained their support for a development at Tamaki. Meanwhile the opposition to the Hobson Bay project was increasing, particularly within the University. The day came when the matter was to be considered by the Senate and the opposition, including by now AU SA, was ready for a fight. I moved from the floor, "That subject to finance, zoning and other required approvals, the University playing field complex be developed on the Tamaki site and the Hobson Bay project be abandoned." There was a stunned silence. Professor Val Chapman, Assistant to the Vice-chancellor (Buildings and Site Development), slowly rose to his feet and seconded the motion. I called for discussion. My memory is that there was either none, or very little, so I put the motion and it passed unanimously. Council endorsed Senate's recommendation.

The problem then was how to finance the project. In the end the University Grants Committee provided a grant. My old AGS school friend Don Dick, who was Chief Executive of Alltrans, asked to see me and this led to the University selling his company twenty acres of land at Tamaki for $1,000,000. Finally the Public Trustee agreed to contribute $1,000,000 over several years from the Auckland Education Reserves Endowment, more of which later.

The new 40 acre sports complex at University Park was opened in 1978. It consisted of five rugby fields, two soccer fields, three cricket pitches, two hockey fields, a softball diamond, an athletic track and a splendid clubhouse. Over 10,000 native trees and shrubs in associations of coastal species were planted. Not long after the opening six grass tennis courts and the Auckland University Rugby clubhouse were completed.

A number of years later, in the changing rooms of Remuera Rackets Club after a game of tennis, Peter Wilson, President of Auckland Tennis, asked me whether I knew of any suitable land for a tennis park. I told him that the Auckland City Council owned some land adjacent to University Park, also that the University may be willing to sell some excess land in the area. This conversation led to the construction of Vodafone Tennis Park. Again some time later, after a board meeting of Independent Newspapers Ltd, I was talking to Ian Wells, General Manager of Wellington Newspapers and President of New Zealand Tennis. He told me that NZ Tennis was looking to fund an indoor tennis complex in a major centre. I encouraged him to consider Vodafone Tennis Park as the venue for this development.

To my delight both the indoor complex and the headquarters of New Zealand Tennis ended up at Vodafone Tennis Park. One of the end results of all this was that the tennis courts on University Park weren't really needed and have now been built upon.

In recent years a Sports Science complex and a gymnasium have been added to the park. Naturally I am very proud to have my name associated with the park. This was a decision of the University Council at the time of my retirement as Vice-chancellor in 1994.

Planning for the recreational centre on the Princes Street site started in early 1973. It was a bold design that included seven squash courts, a main gymnasium with seating for spectators, a workout gymnasium, a martial arts gymnasium, a modern dance studio, staff and student offices and changing rooms. The campus badly needed a "heart" for students, other than the catering complex, and I was counting on the recreation centre to provide this focal point.

Russell Bartlett was President of AUSA in 1973 and I received good co-operation from him and AUSA in planning the centre and other student facilities. I should note that co-operation from the students was not always forthcoming during my years as Vice Chancellor, but it was very good in the early 1970s. Like the Maidment Theatre, the problem was how to finance the Recreation Centre, ultimately to cost $2.2 million. The UOC could be expected to subsidise the AUSA contribution but this would not be sufficient in total. As it turned out the remainder was obtained from the Auckland Education Reserves Endowment and how this happened may be of interest.

During my attendance at Student Accommodation Committee meetings, I observed that sometimes it would be suggested that monies (generally small) from the Auckland Education Reserves Endowment be used for some purpose or other. After a while I started to ask questions about this endowment and asked to see the original Act of Parliament. I found out that the endowment had been set up in 1912 for the establishment and maintenance of hostels for the students of Auckland University College and that its main asset was the block of land bounded by Queen, Victoria, Elliott and Derby Streets. The endowment was controlled by the Public Trustee and the income from the buildings was several hundred thousand dollars per year. For years the Public Trustee had been adding most of this income to retained earnings with the intent of redeveloping the site in the future. My interpretation of the Act, as amended by the "Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Act 1949," was that the income could be used for the students on a broader basis than just for accommodation purposes.

It was arranged for the Public Trustee to visit the University where he was presented with the plans for the Recreation Centre. I emphasised how deficient the University was in recreational facilities for students and pleaded with him to release his hold on the endowment's funds. The Public Trustee considered the matter and, generously, allocated several years' income to the financing of the centre. As I noted earlier, the Endowment also contributed to the financing of University Park.The Recreation Centre opened in 1977 and was an immediate success with the students. It really did provide a heart for the campus. The first "trial match" on the squash courts was between Steve Hollings, the Physical Recreation Officer, and myself and was photographed for the University News.

Student accommodation was much improved during my years at the University with the opening of Grafton Hall, a Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational Foundation project, in 1971, the Collingwood student flats in 1975, the Parnell and Whitaker Place student flats in 1987 and the redevelopment of O'Rorke Hall in 1989. Once again the Auckland Education Reserves Endowment helped significantly in the financing of the O'Rorke Hall redevelopment.

Also, through the years, the Student Health and Student Counselling services improved significantly and provided effective assistance to students. Through this period I had very good assistant Vice-Chancellors (Student Services) in Professors Barney Sampson, Marie Clay, the University's first woman Professor, and Con Cambie.

When I retired as Vice-chancellor I thought that the University had very good student amenities and services, although there was still work to be done. In particular a new Student Amenities complex, on the corner of Alfred and Wellesley Streets, was being designed. The Kate Edger Information Commons and the Student Commons have since been completed. My only disappointment was that 1 had never been able to convince AUSA to support and help fund a swimming pool.