Major upgrade for St Pat’s Kilbirnie

WelCom August 2022 Michael Fitzsimons An ambitious modernisation and seismic resilience programme is set to radically transform the St Patrick’s College Kilbirnie campus. This is the first significant upgrade of…

The architect’s impression of the Learning Hub viewed from Evans Bay Parade.

WelCom August 2022

Michael Fitzsimons

An ambitious modernisation and seismic resilience programme is set to radically transform the St Patrick’s College Kilbirnie campus.

This is the first significant upgrade of facilities since the college was moved to Kilbirnie more than 40 years ago. Seismic strengthening and asbestos removal has been carried out in recent years but the 10-year ‘Modernisation Masterplan’ will refresh and modernise the whole school environment, as well as further strengthen its seismic resilience.

The Learning Hub interior.

‘Many old boys, including myself, who were educated at Kilbirnie, have seen no changes at the college in the last 40 years,’ says college rector Mike Savali. ‘This plan will change the landscape of the college and ensure its long-term future.’

View of the Performing Arts Centre. Images: Supplied

The Masterplan provides a blueprint for staged development that can be progressed in a logical and affordable way. First milestone is the development of a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Centre which will be opened next month. The centre extends the old assembly hall and offers greatly improved facilities for music and drama. The goal is to provide real vocational experience for students, developing actors, musicians, performers and film and theatre production specialists.

By the end of next year, a brand-new Learning Hub will be built at the entrance of the college, replacing the Chanel Block building that was originally used as the priests’ accommodation wing. The Hub will house a modern library with the latest in shared learning facilities. The Hub will also create an impressive modern façade to the college entranceway facing onto Evans Bay Parade.

On the outside of the college an underground wall is being built on the Evans Bay side of the college to stop land movement within the college in the case of a seismic event. A total of 86 piles are being driven 17 metres into solid rock, connected together by a beam to form a ‘palisade wall’. The wall is due to be completed by September this year.

‘The palisade wall is vital for the long-term resilience of the college,’ says Mike Savali. ’What’s important is for this campus to endure for another 100 years. That’s the key thing. The wall will provide stability for our buildings in the event of an earthquake and provide a safe learning environment for staff and students.’

Other areas in the school are also to be upgraded. The Egden Block will be enhanced, Todd Theatre will be demolished and sheltered outdoor zones established.

The budget for implementing all nine stages of the Masterplan is $34 million. The Society of Mary, the proprietor of the school, has been a generous donor to the project, but there is still a major task to gather the funds for the rest of the project. 

St Patrick’s College is special, says Fr Tim Duckworth, Provincial of the Society of Mary. 

‘Not only is it the first Catholic secondary school in New Zealand, but it’s also an incredibly visible and significant part of the Wellington landscape.

‘Today the basis of the college is its three-fold partnership between the Society of Mary, parents and the college itself,’ says Fr Duckworth. ‘All of us are here to do good work and we as the Society of Mary have committed to make a major financial contribution to secure the success of the College’s Campus Masterplan. Parents are the first educators of their children and its very important that they are closely involved.

‘It has to be all of us together to ensure that this important capital campaign is fulfilled and an environment created where boys
can come together and be valued for their unique gifts.’

College alumni are being encouraged to get involved and support these major improvements to college facilities.

‘I want to acknowledge the support of the Society of Mary for our Modernisation and Resilience Masterplan, and also the support of our staff and wider school community who are right behind this,’ says Mike Savali. ‘The new buildings will certainly give the boys and the college community an uplift but the character of the college, the spirituality and formation of faith which is so real at St Pat’s, that won’t change.’

St Patrick’s was the first Catholic boys’ secondary school in New Zealand when it opened in 1885. A related boarding school, also called St Patrick’s, opened in Silverstream, Upper Hutt, in 1931. In 1977, the original school shifted to a new site in Kilbirnie. This photograph, taken around 1893, includes eight pupils who later became priests. Source: Rory Sweetman, Catholic Church – Building a national Catholic Church, Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,