Setbacks overcome as shed dream realised

By Peter de Graaf

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CELEBRATING:   Sailing trust captain Paul Bowker (left),  community board and gym club member Garry Clarke, community board chairwoman Pauline Evans and sailing trust president Rene de Vries.PHOTO/PETER DE GRAAF
CELEBRATING: Sailing trust captain Paul Bowker (left), community board and gym club member Garry Clarke, community board chairwoman Pauline Evans and sailing trust president Rene de Vries.PHOTO/PETER DE GRAAF

An eight-year dream to build a shed housing volunteer groups in a small Northland town has finally been realised, despite setbacks that would have made lesser communities give up in despair.

The greatest blow for the Hokianga Community Shed, which opened at Rawene Domain last weekend, was the theft in 2014 of two tonnes of cladding just as the building was about to be assembled. The crime left the project $12,000 out of pocket.

The community did not just recover from the theft - it came back stronger than before, Hokianga Sailing Trust president Rene de Vries said.

"If anything it did us good. When the story was in the newspapers people phoned in offering to help - that would never have happened otherwise.

"Of course we were disappointed that someone in the community would do that but it put us on the map and we got a lot of support from unexpected quarters."

However, with that support came obligations.

"Now we have to do more, we have to show it's not just a dead building but we're really using it," Mr de Vries said.

The 25m x 7.5m shed houses the Hokianga Sailing Trust, Hokianga Coastguard and Hokianga Community Gym. The project included an upgrade of the nearby rugby club changing rooms with new toilets and showers.

The sailing trust was founded in 2008 by Mr de Vries and Rawene GP Paul Bowker in a bid to revive youth sailing on the Hokianga Harbour.

They needed somewhere to store and repair the trust's donated Optimist and Laser boats during winter, so jumped at the chance when the America's Cup syndicate Alinghi offered a surplus shed. When other groups got on board the trust traded Alinghi's shed for a larger one.

When the cladding was stolen, Totalspan Bay of Islands replaced it at cost and installed it without charge. A timber mill donated the internal cladding.

The other end of the shed houses a community gym operated by Hokianga Kyokushin Karate Club. Founder Garry Clarke said the gym equipment, previously stored at the town hall, would be accessible to everyone.

The shed will also be used to store a 5m inflatable rescue boat used by Hokianga Coastguard. The volunteer group's main vessel, the 12.5m Hokianga Rescue, is based at Opononi but having a second boat at Rawene would speed up rescues at that end of the harbour.

The new building was blessed by kaumatua Steve Morunga. Those present at the opening included representatives of the Far North District Council and the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board.

Councillor Sally Macauley praised the sailing trust for giving young people a chance to learn new skills and attributes such as self-discipline.

While the council had given grants of $90,000 for the building and $40,000 for the fit-out, the project would not have been possible without the community's drive, she said. Grants also came from Foundation North and Pub Charities.

- Northern Advocate

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