Tucked away on the edge of Rangitane Park is a place of projects and camaraderie, the Menzshed.
Three days a week an old house - once army barracks, then clubrooms- comes alive with saws, routers, and woodworking tools.
The repurposed premises is home to a philosophy of mending and making for the community. On the day of my visit, a 17-strong team filled the tearoom, sharing the thanks in a letter from Caccia Birch for new wooden bench seats.
They have also mended furniture, chairs and tables said chairman of Menzshed Manawatū, David Chapple.
“It’s the sort of thing we like doing, working with other people to help them get something.”
One of the Menzshed principles is not to do what could be paid work, so they usually partner with charities and community facilities, said Chapple. Their skills and dedication can be seen all around the city.
Holding up books in the Red Cross bookshop, displaying art in Square Edge and providing places to picnic in the new courtyard.
They have also made predator traps, rabbit hutches, garden boxes, and bench seats for streets around the city, and are involved with the Repair Café.
Graham Slater spends his Menzshed time making and mending items for the toy library.
“It’s a fulltime job,” he said with a smile, adding that the TV show The Repair Shop is compulsory viewing in his house.
While some have qualifications in carpentry, backgrounds are varied with an architect, former academic, accountant and farmers among the members.
The common component that draws them together is community, with the social aspect more important than the projects.
Menzshed Manawatū is part of a national movement.
“There’s about 3000 sheds around the world and 120 in New Zealand,” said Chapple.
Chapple, who was recently awarded Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, was one of the three Davids, along with David Bateman and David Grant, to set up the Menzshed in Palmerston North in 2012.
It has worked beyond his dreams, said Chapple, who found inspiration in his own backyard fixing.
“I’ve always had a shed and made things. It was logical,” he said.
The group has two female members, but supporting men is the motivation behind the original idea.
“One of the main criteria for the whole thing is men’s wellbeing ... giving them something to come and do and feel positive about and contribute back to the community,” said Chapple.
It’s an environment where the projects give members purpose, but the people bring everyone back, yet the influence of the group goes even further.
If members need advice for their own projects, everyone pitches in and provides support.
“Brian Jeffares, who runs the Wednesday group, is the man who got the council to have mobility scooters down at Esplanade. And we encouraged him. It just becomes a hub in a way and things come out from it,” said Chapple.
The Menzshed accepts donations of tools and uses grants to supply the bigger equipment.
It is open from 9am–2pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.