The Backhouse Home To New Innovation Collaboration


A new centre for innovation, creative industries,
entrepreneurship and education – housed in the historic
Backhouse building on UCOL Whanganui’s campus – is
inspiring excitement in the city’s creative


UCOL Board Chair Verne Atmore said the
collaboration between economic development agency Whanganui
& Partners and UCOL reflected the future for a city of
design and creativity.

“We have a shared aspiration
to create business friendly spaces that bring together
entrepreneurship and education. This will be an amazing
place for stronger relationships between businesses and UCOL
staff and students. There has been a lot of work behind the
scenes to bring this new innovation collaboration to

The Backhouse is a stunning historic
building with views of the Whanganui River and the arts
precinct. “There has been overwhelming support and
excitement from stakeholders and interest groups for the
idea, and this has the potential to transform how we
approach innovation, education and business,” Atmore

Tim Easton, Whanganui & Partners Strategic
Lead – Business, said The Backhouse was the ideal place to
explore new business opportunities, deliver business growth
projects and innovative ideas.

“Whanganui &
Partners approached UCOL with the concept of how The
Backhouse might be utilised as a home for innovation and
start-ups in Whanganui,” Easton said.

“The support
and dialogue from UCOL has been fantastic. The Backhouse
project perfectly aligns with Whanganui & Partners’
aims to help develop new businesses, improve Whanganui’s
labour capability and support our creative

The Backhouse already has a number of
tenants on board, Easton said, including 100% SWEET, the
Port Employment Precinct, Te Manu Atatū, Chamber of
Commerce and Confluence. Interest in The Backhouse has
affirmed the need for this type of collaborative place, he
said, and the list of motivated potential tenants meant the
building’s spaces were filling fast.

The concept of
The Backhouse is modelled on similar successful operations
such as The IceHouse in Auckland, The Factory in Palmerston
North, and CreativeHQ in Wellington. The specific operating
model, services provided and the connections utilised are
unique in each location, and the vision is to remain closely
connected to the community.

To keep this connection
strong, The Backhouse will be run by a group of trustees
committed to seeing the Whanganui region thrive. The
Backhouse Trust has been recently established and currently
consists of two appointed trustees, Gaelle Deighton and Mark
Cleaver. Deighton has been appointed by Whanganui &
Partners and Cleaver represents UCOL.

Vacancies for
five more positions on the Trust will be advertised in the
coming months. The Trust will be looking for trustees from
diverse backgrounds who can help The Backhouse reach its
potential as an innovative centre for new ideas and business

The Backhouse Trust will be responsible
for fulfilling the tenancy requirements of the building,
which will be relative to prospective organisations’
ability to fit with the strategic vision of The

“The facility is a shared working space
for Whanganui creatives, innovators, education providers and
organisations developing Whanganui’s labour capability,”
Easton said.

Whanganui & Partners considered The
Backhouse’s location, alongside the Drews Ave
redevelopments, next to UCOL and close to Whanganui River
and CBD, to be an ideal location for creative thinking and
business development.

Built in 1926, The Backhouse
building provides a sense of the progress and possibility of
the 1920s. The Backhouse Trust’s vision is to revive that
in the 2020s.



UCOL Ltd is
part of Te Pūkenga, New Zealand’s largest tertiary
education provider, and globally, the 35th largest provider
of vocational education. Together, we aim to provide
excellent quality education opportunities that support
learners, employers and communities to gain the skills,
knowledge and capabilities Aotearoa needs now and for the

Across the country, approximately 240,000
people are participating in some form of vocational
education and training, supported by about 10,000 full time

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