Community members gathered in Whatawhata this week to mark an important milestone in a project that will improve the social cohesion and wellbeing of residents of the rural village.
Our Place is the label placed on a new community facility for Whatawhata, and the first sod was turned on site following a karakia from Ngāti Māhanga kaumatua on Monday.
Community members, including Whatawhata School students, then gathered at the Village Café to acknowledge all those who have been involved with the project so far.
The Whatawhata Community Association (WCA) has worked closely with Waikato District Council to raise funds, engage with the community and plan for the construction phase of the project.
Our Place will be a 244 sq m building with one large open room with provisions for sound reducing dividers, as well as toilets, a kitchen, a servery and storage space.
It will be located in the open space with a communal carpark behind the Village Café, just a short walk from the village centre and Whatawhata School.
Designed to be an inclusive, communal space, Our Place will be a hub where people can connect with neighbours and build strong relationships that enhance community resilience.
Potential users of this community hub would include the school, sports and community groups, public health nurse, youth groups, playgroups and Waikato District Council for community engagement.
Upon completion of the building, there will be an independent board of locals responsible for the everyday running of the facility. They will be supported by Waikato District Council.
One of the main drivers of the project, Newcastle Ward Councillor Noel Smith, said it had been a long road to get to this point, but he was looking forward to the opening of the facility.
“I am proud that I have been part of the steering group that got this project over the line.
“From inception it has taken nine years and reaching the construction phase is the result of a major effort and achievement by a dedicated community committee led by Glenn McLennan,” said Cr Smith.
“Our Place is more than just a brick-and-mortar building. It’s a significant moment in our community’s history, a moment that they have had a hand in creating which will lead to an increased sense of ownership for years to come.”
The project is being managed by Waikato District Council and the expected completion date is the end of November 2022.