University of Waikato opens The Pā: māu, māku, mā tātou katoa

The University of Waikato's new building, The Pā, opened at its Hamilton campus by Kīngi Tūheitia, marks its most significant capital development in 59 years.

10 Jul 2023

The Pā, the landmark new building at the heart of the University of Waikato’s Hamilton campus, was opened on Monday by Kīngi Tūheitia. It is the most significant capital development in the University’s 59-year history.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, says The Pā reinforces the University’s distinctiveness being unique in concept, functionality and architectural design: there is nothing else like it nationally or internationally.

Maori dance being performed at night.

‘The Pā’ is a reference to the integrated and connected facilities within the complex that are designed with the campus community in mind.

“It is a symbol of the aspirations of the University that honours our history and our commitment to a campus experience that delivers functionality, social interaction, hospitality and culture,” says Professor Quigley.


The Pā is a safe-haven for students and it will be a unique campus destination for the University, for Kirikiriroa Hamilton, Waikato and the world.

At the heart of The Pā, is the University’s new wharenui, Ko Te Tangata, the name of which is carried over from the University’s motto.Developed for the University by the late Professor Te Wharehuia Milroy in the 1990s, the motto is now elevated as the name of the new wharenui and revitalised with a depth of meaning that ties together the artworks and cultural narrative of the space.

The opening ceremonies were guided by leaders of the Kīngitanga and Waikato-Tainui, and attended by University students and staff, and representatives from iwi, community and business organisations.

The $85 million development began in 2019 and will be the year-round home of campus life for students. Within The Pā is a student hub featuring social and learning spaces, a large stage to cater for University and community events including graduation, a food court and a dedicated space for tauira Māori. The complex includes a new lift tower to improve connectivity and mobility in the heart of the campus, and wayfinding across its 65ha grounds.

The University’s original building, ‘A Block’, has been fully renovated and integrated into The Pā. Its rich history as a stronghold for Māori Studies and te reo Māori is honoured with the return of Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao, the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies into the space. The complex is also home to a staff club and executive offices.

Professor Quigley says the design and development of The Pā has involved extensive consultation and collaboration with stakeholders, and was guided by the University’s specially formed Tikanga Advisory Group.

We have developed a cultural narrative that links The Pā to the history and heritage of the site and to the long-standing connections with the Kīngitanga, Waikato-Tainui and iwi communities throughout the University’s extended catchment. It is something we are incredibly proud of and we look forward to activating the space as a new learning environment for the University.

Speech being given inside the Pa

The development is one of the more unique commercial projects contractor Hawkins has worked on. Designed by architectural firms Jasmax, Architectus and DesignTribe, the 7000sqm building showcases structural timber in the form of engineered wooden glulam beams.

“The beams are the largest in the country and are made with timber from sustainably harvested plantation forests. They give The Pā its unique shape, framing its roofline, or whakaruruhau.”

The Pā is now officially open to students, staff and visitors.

The University acknowledges its partners in this project:

Te Tari o Te Kiingitanga: For support and guidance throughout the project, including the deployment of the artistic teams - carvers under the guidance of Renata Te Wiata, and weavers under the guidance of Puhi Ariki, Nga wai hono i te po Paki, James Schuster (ONZM) and Cathy Schuster.

Construction: Hawkins
Design: Architectus, Jasmax, designTRIBE with Wraight + Associates
Project management: Colliers Project Leaders Greenstone Group
Structures and building services: Beca
Facade engineering: Mott MacDonald
Planning: Boffa Miskell
Acoustic engineering: Marshall Day
Vertical transportation: Stephenson and Turner
Commissioning engineers: Pacific commissioning
Traffic design: CKL