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New Maori arts space opens

The money raised from camping ground fees has been put to good use by a local Maori trust, with the resurrection of a derelict site on Riria Kereopa Memorial Drive into a community arts space.

Te Kopua Block 3 and 4 Trust, which runs a camping ground behind its Kokiri Centre on the same road, has spent about $40,000 raised from camp fees from the past three years on the two-building site.

Trustee Heather Thomson said two new tenants – carver Kawharu Greensill and local trades operator Tom Rudolph – were moving this week into the renovated Te Kopua Industrial Site, which was opened on Saturday.

There was now a gallery space to showcase Maori art, a carving room, kitchen and toilet facilities and other spaces that could be used by artists. A verandah would also be built on the main building and tables and chairs put outside during summer to capture the view.

Heather said the site was a real asset with “fantastic possibilities” for business, as it was had lots of parking, was close to town, bordered the river and had room for expansion.

The two sheds were built in the 1980s and were used over the years for a timber yard, a fashion business, a training centre and a storage centre, but had fallen into disrepair after being empty for the last 15 years.

“We recognised that it was a great site and the building had great bones, but everything needed replacing,” Heather said.

With the help of Department of Corrections, the outside was first tidied up, then the inside of the buildings was completely refurbished. A huge amount of work was done to repair and replace floors, rooves, windows and doors, then the place was painted.

Corrections supervision Wayne Tukiri, who had been bringing teams of community workers out to the site about three times a week since November, said their work would continue with the planting of natives on the river’s border, more painting and weekly maintenance.

He said his male and female workers had learnt a lot of skills by working at the site, which they were taking back to use in their own lives.

Heather said the trust couldn’t have done it without the teams, who “totally embraced the idea and gave100 percent”.

Local kaumatua Russell Riki thanked all the people who had worked on the building at the opening.
“Whether it was forced on you or not, you have put your sweat into this place and you are now part of this building,” he told them.

Rachel Benn

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