Tāmaki Innovation Campus


Kevin Taylor
Kevin Taylor

Tāmaki Campus’ longest serving staff member shares his recollections of life at Tāmaki, which, for him make up a significant chunk of his working life. Kevin Taylor is the Senior Teaching Technology Specialist in the Learning Environment Support Unit and his memories span the early days of having a job but no office (working out of the tea room), to a genuine sorrow at Tāmaki’s closing later this year.

His farewell speech, should he give one, would include this poignant comment that accurately reflects his Tāmaki life and philosophy: “Do you know I’ve never got up in the morning and thought ‘Oh no, got work today’ like so many people do, and that’s down to people like you, so thanks to all of you for the memories.”

For those who know Kevin, you’ll recognise his laconic raconteur style. Here, he outlines life at Tāmaki as he knew it.

“Well it has been the best of times and the worst of times with the opening and now closing of the Tāmaki Campus and I can say without fear that working at Tāmaki has been one of the best jobs I have had.”

“My job straight from school was an apprenticeship with the GPO in London where I went to East Ham Tech and got my HNC/City and Guilds in Telecommunications. After that apprenticeship I worked in a place called Deep Level; a top secret nuclear-proof telephone exchange underground next to Holborn Station London. Access to it was like Get Smart, you entered through an employment agency, got the nod and then went to a small door and a lift down 100 feet below street level.”

“It had private lines between the leaders of the USA and USSR during the Cold War, and there is even access to get the royals out of Buckingham Palace to these tunnels. Now, it can be hired as a nightclub/dance venue.”

Kevin came to New Zealand in 1975 on a six-month working holiday and worked in Airedale St at the international telephone exchange, emigrating permanently in 1979, just two days before the Erebus Disaster.

“Shortly after, I landed a job at TVNZ as a Technical Director based at Shortland St Studios. In 1992 after 12 years of working on the News, Outside Broadcast and Light Ent, there was a downturn in the economy and many of us were made redundant.  I had been out of work for six months when an ex-TVNZ colleague who now worked in the TV studios in the City Campus called and said a new Campus was opening at Glen Innes and would I be interested in an A/V job there?”

“It was an overcast day in February 1993 when I strolled up to the Registry Office in 721 and met Ray Meyer, Philip Rama and the then head of the A/V department, Eric Anderson, and the rest as they say is history. I got the job but no office and was told to sit in the tea room and introduce myself to staff as they came in.”

“The only building at that time was 721, and teaching was held in the three-bedroom chalets left over from the Commonwealth Games. Funnily enough while at TVNZ I used to come out to the Media Centre for TV Sports News Reports. That building became the Library and a 200-seat lecture theatre.”

Kevin says there was never us and them, at Tāmaki. Rather, it was a can-do attitude that has lasted, with everybody mixing in and lending a hand.

“That is what has created the culture here, which the City Campus cannot replicate. I did get an office in the end and over the years have been in almost every building.”

Ever the joker, Kevin admits to liking a practical joke but recalls one that went a bit too far even for him. “Ever since I had been here, there have been rumours about the place closing, so one Friday night, around 2001, I came back, hammered in survey pegs and spray-painted boundaries in orange. The lines went through the Unisat building and Property Services offices, the big café that was there and out to the main gate.”

“I came in Monday morning and the ground staff came in and asked if I had seen what had happened outside. I told them there were suits sniffing around on Friday afternoon and they must have done it over the weekend. They took it to the head of Property Services, then to their head office and it slowly made its way up the chain to the then VC. People were coming out trying to work out who was building what here.”

“There was no way I could own up to it now and I was actually getting quite worried. I had told no one, which is unlike me (can’t keep a secret.) After about six months it quietened down, and a few years later it slipped out at a function in 220 after I was plied with alcohol.”

Another practical joke involved fish and drinking water, pre health and safety days. “A while ago when student health was on campus, I bought some goldfish and oxygenating plants and put them in the filtered water dispenser bottle that was in the waiting room. It looked like a vertical fish tank. When the room was full of students  a couple of us went in there and got a glass of water from it and drank it complaining we could taste fish poo, their looks and gasps were priceless, little did they know I put cling film over the end of the bottle.”

In another recollection, Minister of Education, Lockwood Smith officially opened Tāmaki Campus. “There were student protests and the police were in numbers controlling crowds, and to my amusement, one of the placards read Lockwood’s Myth which I thought was really quite clever.”

Kevin says it’s been an amazing journey watching technology change on campus. “When I started it was Audio and VHS Cassettes, slide projectors, chalk and roller boards. You should have seen the rows when White Boards were introduced, the maths dept went ballistic and wanted to stay with chalk. We now have laser projectors and lecture theatre recording; even the lecterns themselves need three to four computers to control them.”

“I’ve made some lifelong friends here, I’ve known their children from birth, even seen them do a paper here and graduate. I’ve also lost some lifelong friends here. RIP. These years have literally flown by, testament to the great times we’ve all had here.”

“When the Campus closes, I won’t be calling it a day, or hanging up my digital multimeter. I plan to keep my Electrical Registration current and keep busy with car/tv repairs etc. I am a keen motorcyclist so will now be able to get away mid-week with like-minded mates, instead of just Sunday afternoons.”

“I have the dubious title of being the longest serving staff member here so I hope I get the chance to turn out the lights. It will be a sad day when we all have to say goodbye to the place and I for one am not looking forward to that as I have had a brilliant time. I will miss the movie evenings, lunchtime seminars, Friday night drinks, beginning of Semester drinks, end of Semester drinks, coffee this and coffee that - seemingly no end to it.”