The ASB MAGS Farm at Mount Albert Grammar School was established in 1932, when the Auckland Institute of Horticulture decided that city children were losing knowledge of farming practices and asked Mount Albert Grammar to teach agriculture and horticulture. The Auckland Savings Bank became involved on a charitable basis, and special legislation was passed to allow the Bank to buy land from the neighbouring Kerr-Taylor sisters’ farm and lease it back to the school at a peppercorn rental.
It is currently an 8.1 hectare working farm featuring a variety of livestock and a classroom centre, educating 160 students annually from Years 10-13 in Agricultural and Horticultural Science.
In 2013, a new lease agreement was signed between ASB and the Mount Albert Grammar School Board of Trustees with ASB leasing the land to the school for an effective 99 year term at a nominal annual rent of $1.
In 2017 council permission was granted for a development that will see the building of a world class teaching facility and Experience Centre, and a development of the farm land.
In May 2018, Peter Brice (pictured right) was appointed ASB MAGS Farm Experience Centre Development Manager. His appointment was made possible by a $250,000 grant by Agribusiness investor AGMARDT.
Mr Brice will be driving the planning, design and funding of the $12 million Experience Centre, which will be the centrepiece of the farm and give students and visitors a world-class experience and educational environment with classrooms, an exhibition space and a seminar area.
The Experience Centre will have five new classrooms and in addition to the seminar and exhibition spaces it will have shearing and milking facilities and machinery bays. It will also have a hydroponics building and overlook neighbouring horticulture and viticulture blocks.
Together with the MAGS Foundation and KPMG, the ASB aims to enhance the farm’s facilities to educate Auckland students and the wider community about the Agri-food and Fibre sectors and their career opportunities, as one answer to a looming skills shortage in New Zealand’s primary sector, where 50,000 people are required to support the sector’s growth over the next 10 years.
The MAGS farm, in the heart of the country’s biggest city, is seen as the ideal resource to showcase the sector to young people.
It will demonstrate the innovation, science and environmental best practices used on farms across New Zealand, and be the driver for substantially increasing the number of MAGS students studying agriculture from the current total of 160 to about 500 studying Agri-food and Fibre. The new Experience Centre will also aim to host at least 20,000 visiting primary and secondary students from across Auckland each year.
The ASB MAGS Farm Advisory Group will oversee and fundraise for the project. The group includes representatives of New Zealand’s largest agricultural organisations.
Headmaster Mr Patrick Drumm says the school’s agriculture and horticulture programmes have expanded to full academic courses from Years 10-13, including the introduction of an AgriBusiness course.
“We welcome investment in our farm facilities to help provide students with the best possible preparation for study and work in the primary industries, and further afield.”