A new community hub opened in Martinborough this month to improve access to services for people in rural and geographically isolated areas of South Wairarapa.
Run by REAP Wairarapa [Rural Education Activities Programme] with funding from the Ministry for Social Development [MSD], Heartland Services is a free-to-use service assisting people with advice, information, and referrals to government, community and social services.
“It’s really exciting”, Hana Makin, the centre’s manager, said. “The intention is the community will come in and tell us what support they need and what they need help with, and we do the legwork to connect them with the [right] services.”
The Heartlands initiative was started in 2001 under Helen Clark’s Labour-Alliance coalition government. Today, there are nearly 30 service centres across the motu, predominantly in rural locations.
Pip Maynard, who is based at the Heartland Service centre and is also a REAP Adult and Community Education Facilitator, said the location of the service in Martinborough is “perfect”.
“Martinborough is the township that leads out to [and serves] all our rural communities, so it was probably the most obvious choice out of the south Wairarapa towns.”
Makin and Maynard have several years of community development experience between them.
Before taking the manager role at Heartlands, Makin was a facilitator at community-led development initiative, Fab Feathy, and Maynard is a ward councillor on South Wairarapa District Council, and was first elected in 2016.
The pair are looking forward to “building trust” with the community in 2024.
“We’re friendly, and people are very welcome to just call in and say, ‘hello’,” Makin said.
“Get to know us, get to know what’s going on here, and that trust will hopefully come with time that people will feel they are able to come here and let us know what they need.”
Wairarapa REAP education manager, Alison Woollard, said running Heartlands is a good fit with REAP’s wider purpose.
“All the people that work at REAP are working in the community and respond to the needs of the community.
“We don’t go out and say, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that, let’s do the other’. We hear from the people who are in the community, and then we try and provide for them. So this service was exactly what we heard the people of the South Wairarapa needed.”
Heartlands on Jellicoe Street has offices, meeting spaces, and a large room at the back for larger workshops and hui.
REAP’s financial mentoring programme, Building Financial Capabilities, will be located there, as well as Youth2Work Wairarapa, which focuses on sustainable long-term employment for youth.
“Government organisations and community support groups will bring their experts to Heartlands so the community can connect kanohi ki kanohi [face to face]. Some will be drop-in sessions and some may require an appointment,” Woollard said.
“It is not a community centre”, she explained, “but it is a hub for the community to grow their own understanding and their own capabilities so they can make their own choices about their lives.”