Manawatū Oval gains heritage status

Wednesday 22 March 2023

In 2021, Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) began a process to recognise the historic significance of the Oval on Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University’s Manawatū campus through the adoption of a change to their District Plan. The plan change is intended to recognise, protect, and maintain the heritage values and character of the area.

1943 aerial view of the Manawatū Oval

After careful consideration, the PNCC has granted the Oval heritage status. The site will now be known as the Turitea Historic Area, encompassing the Oval and the historical buildings around it: the Refectory, Sir Geoffrey Peren building, McHardy Hall, the Registry building and Tiritea House.

The Oval has significance as one of the first purpose-built areas at Massey, and for its continuous use since it was formed in 1929. It has further historical significance following its use during World War II as a staff college by the New Zealand Army, who placed huts on the Oval for accommodation, and built McHardy Hall as the officers’ mess.

For nearly 100 years the Oval has been prized for its garden parties, cricket and other sporting events and student activities, and has been likened to a village green. It has become an area of high social and aesthetic value to both students and staff and is seen as the historic heart of the Manawatū campus.

Massey is working with Pouhere Taonga Heritage New Zealand for the site to be listed on Rārangi Kōrero - the New Zealand Heritage List. Listing on Rārangi Kōrero will commence this year and will include further consultation and engagement with Rangitāne o Manawatū and community stakeholders, as well as an opportunity for current and past students and staff to share memories and contribute to the store of historical material.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas is pleased with the ongoing work and collaboration between Massey, Palmerston North City Council and Pouhere Taonga.

“This work recognises the historical importance this area holds for the university and the wider community. Through these nationally significant mechanisms, the university acknowledges its obligations to protect and enhance the heritage value of this important precinct. We are lucky to have a number of these heritage sites on our Manawatū campus.”

Within the Turitea Historic Area, the university has already recognised the unique and special architecture of both the Sir Geoffrey Peren and Refectory buildings through individual heritage listings on Rārangi Kōrero. The creation of this wider historic area is a rare opportunity to provide heritage protection to the precinct itself. Other important Rārangi Kōrero listings on the wider Manawatū campus include Wharerata, Craiglochart, and Colombo Hall.