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Massey University Oval to gain heritage status


In this aerial view from 1934, the Oval and surrounding buildings are well established in their setting.

Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) is considering the historic significance of the Oval on Massey’s Manawatū campus through the adoption of a change to their District Plan. The plan change intends to recognise, protect and maintain the heritage values and character of the area by ensuring its protection through the District Plan.

The university is also working with Heritage New Zealand for the site to be listed on Rārangi Kōrero, the New Zealand Heritage List. Through these nationally significant mechanisms, the university acknowledges its obligations to protect and enhance the heritage value of this important precinct.

The site, to be known as the Turitea Historic Area, encompasses the Oval and the historically iconic buildings that surround it: the Refectory, Sir Geoffrey Peren building, McHardy Hall, the Registry building and Tiritea House.

The Oval itself has significance as one of the first purpose-built areas at Massey University, and for its continuous use since it was formed in 1929. It has further historical significance following its use during World War Two 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.


In this aerial view from May 1943, army huts are on the Oval, the foundations for McHardy Hall are laid and the extension to the Refectory is partly built.

For nearly 100 years the Oval has been prized for its garden parties, cricket and other sporting events, and casual and organised 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 University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas says, “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with Palmerston North City Council to progress this important work to recognise the unique value that the Turitea Historic Area holds for the university and the wider community.”

National Facilities Director, Dr David Povey says, “It’s great to see our community and key institutions come together to properly recognise these historically important areas. The Massey property portfolio is large and diverse, and we are lucky to have a number of these heritage areas on our Manawatū campus. It creates a richness to the environment that all can appreciate and enjoy.”

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.

The Turitea Historic Area will be the third such designated area in Palmerston North, complementing two other important heritage sites that reflect the mana of the city - the Savage Crescent Conservation Area and the North West Square Heritage Area which encompasses George Street, Coleman Mall and sections of Cuba Street.

The university has worked closely with PNCC planners on this plan change, which is supported by Rangitāne o Manawatū and community stakeholders Historic Places Manawatū and the Palmerston North Defence Heritage Advisory Group.

Listing on Rārangi Kōrero with Heritage New Zealand will commence next 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.

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