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A hive of activity at Taratahi

Thanks to a “generous grant”, enthusiastic committee, and active Carterton community, a historic rural landmark has a new lease on life.

The West Taratahi Community Hall on Chester Rd is emerging as a hive of activity and a well-used events hub for Carterton locals – which its committee hopes will continue following some significant renovations.

In January, the hall’s committee made a successful bid for funding from the Lotteries Commission – used to cover several upgrades to the 130-year-old building including new kitchen facilities, a heat pump, water filter, and portable wheelchair ramp.

The renovations were inspired by renewed interest in the hall as a community facility – now host to various activities, from exhibitions, to family gatherings, to puppy preschools.

The committee is seeking funding for further upgrades, including ceiling insulation and more accessible facilities for the outdoor toilet blocks.

The hall is going against the grain: In recent years, several community halls throughout rural Wairarapa have faced closure, due to lack of funds and limited use, including the nearby Belvedere Hall.

A committee spokesperson said the building’s renaissance is “timely” – considering the role community halls played as emergency hubs during Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Given the recent flooding disasters, centres like this should be retained and used – as it’s during times of crisis that neighbours and community are vital.

“When there is a disaster, community halls can be important places for people to gather and find safety and support.

“Plus, it’s good for social cohesion. Even in rural areas, a lot of people still don’t know their neighbours. Having a shared space for events helps people get to know one another and form relationships.’’

The hall, built in 1894, originally housed the old Taratahi West School, which had a roll of about 25 pupils – many of whom walked to school, crossing several creeks along the way.

One of the Taratahi West alumni, Ian Phelps, attended the school during World War II, and is now an active member of the hall’s committee.

Now 87, Ian cycled to Chester Rd from Masterton to carry out regular cleaning duties and raise the hall’s flag – but had to stop recently, due to increased traffic.

By the late 1960s, a dwindling roll saw the school close its doors, and ownership of the building was returned to the Crown.

The space was used as a community hall, with the rented property on the site – the old schoolmaster’s house – bringing in a consistent income stream.

In the last five years, the committee has worked hard to attract more community interest in the space – starting with clearing the land [which had been used as a rubbish dump] and planting a large native garden.

The hall is now used by a “diverse group of people” – including for band practices, craft groups, fitness classes, a puppy training school on the front lawn, and an exhibition by Carterton painter Kathy Bartlett.

It has also recently been booked for a wedding and a 60th birthday party.

Further, the hall is included as a stop point on the planned Norfolk Road Trail, a multi-purpose walking and cycling trail along Norfolk and Chester Roads.

The hall committee is thankful to the volunteers and professionals responsible for the renovations: Including ArbInnovations, Cooper Farm Services, Rummages, Wairarapa Lawnmasters and local builder Hank Groeneweg.

For more information about booking the hall for an event, contact the committee at [email protected]

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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