Garage sale marks haven's end

By Doug Laing

The days of Napier's Hinepare Accommodation Centre seem finally over, with a garage sale expected to clear out furniture and other items which have been in the building since it opened as a hospital nurses' home almost 60 years ago.

Plans for the sale, starting at 7am on Saturday, were confirmed yesterday by Janet and Bruce Raitt, who have hosted hundreds of seasonal workers, backpackers and other guests since leasing the four-storey premises on Hospital Hill from the Office of Treaty Settlements almost 15 years ago.

The dream came crashing down in October when, just as they were about to take a holiday in Australia, they were told the building was a potential earthquake risk and would have to be vacated, and now they're looking for a settlement of their own.

The lease had not been due to expire until 2023, and they're hurt by the way they were told - confirmed by the Office of Treaty Settlements soon after a seasonal-work contractor called, asking why immigration officials were saying Hinepare wasn't available to his crews any more.

Structural engineering tests were begun only recently, and Mr Raitt said, bewildered, that until then "it was all just wiggly-woggly on the computer".

Beyond that, the couple couldn't comment, pending a settlement. They have taken advice to clear the building, however, hence Saturday's sale, which will include a 12-ring stove and other kitchenware, about 40 rimu dressing tables, including mirrors and drawers (c1954, the year the Hinepare Nurses' Home opened), tables, chairs, bunks, pillows and linen.

Also for sale will be a range of things men "like to put in their sheds", standing in the now-cluttered lounge, where walls carry photos of workers from Vanuatu as a reminder of the building's most recent era.

A mere closing of the eyes quickly conjures images of the clatter of the kitchen next door in its bygone days.

Mrs Raitt has enlisted the help of fledgling volunteer family support agency Bellyful to staff the stands for the sale, and Maori Wardens will also help, but as far as she's able she wants people to be able to take what will probably be the last public chance to be inside the building.

She expects some nostalgia, but says "unfortunately" people won't be able to go upstairs.

She expects people keen on the rimu will turn up, plus the usual Saturday garage sale and a number of op-shop bargain hunters.

The couple were running a small disability transport service when the opportunity arose to use the property, which is landbanked as potential part settlement of relevant Treaty of Waitangi claims in Napier.

The premises quickly developed into a home-away-from-home for seasonal workers from an array of Pacific islands, others such as Germans, Romanians and Czechs - "and don't forget the Australians".

Many of their seasonal clientele returned year after year, each time greeted by permanent residents, one of whom completed murals which remain in the kitchen and dining room.

The building had 86 rooms, and at its peak as a workers' hostel it housed about 120 people.

It had 25 permanent guests, who had to find alternative accommodation when it closed.

Part of the proceeds will go to the Bellyful, which provides meal services to mainly young mums or families in distress or affected by illness.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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