Plans for the proposed community hub at McJorrow Park. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

Masterton District Council yesterday considered putting processes in place so a new community hub can be built by a community group in McJorrow Park.

Te Awhina Cameron Community House made public a concept drawing in February of a centre it wants to build in the park to replace its building on the corner of Church St and Stuart Cr, which is leased from Housing New Zealand, and is no longer big enough.

The community-led project poses some issues for council because the park has to be reclassified as a local purpose reserve in order for anything to be built on it and that is an involved process.

Under the Reserves Act, the council can’t legally grant a lease for a community house in a recreation reserve.

Public recreation and enjoyment is all that is allowed on a recreation reserve. Social, education and community purposes are allowed on a local purpose reserve.

Also, council will ultimately have to decide whether it charges for the use of the land. The report councillors are considering refers to potential for lease income. Council generally does not provide free rent to anyone.

“Council staff recommend undertaking consultation to establish public appetite for development within this important recreation reserve and to undertake further research on options, partnership opportunities and ways to support community-led development in one of Masterton’s most dynamic suburbs,” the report says.

Councillors are being asked to receive the report and money from the chief executive’s delegation to be spent to investigate the land reclassification.

This will involve a full assessment of the primary purpose and characteristics of the park, public consultation and ministerial consent.

It will require spending on legal advice and the time of council officials.

“While council has no current strategic plan for this part of the McJorrow Park reserve, the area has undergone significant rejuvenation through the upgrade of the netball facility, proposed Wairua recreation trail connection and the community-led improvements to the play and recreation equipment in the park undertaken in 2017,” the report says.

The existing Te Awhina Community House is a significant community asset and activities there include computer resources, education and life-skills programmes, community-led arts and crafts, recycling of goods and a centre for advice on issues ranging from housing through to legal and health.

Te Awhina Community House has one paid staff member, Donna Gray, and the Eastside Community Group is based there. The facility is so popular some activities happen in the garage.

The new building will have suitable spaces for education and play, and for health services such as a district nurse, counselling and Plunket.

The proposed new building includes five meeting rooms, two community washing machines, a kitchen, computer space, playground for children under five, medical clinic room and community hall – all under one roof.

Costings have yet to be finalised and money has to be raised to pay for it.

The new space would also be available to other organisations for community outreach programmes including Whaiora, police, Wairarapa REAP, and Connecting Communities Wairarapa.

Te Awhina chairman Craig Thomson has said feedback on the proposed hub has been positive.