A shed where retired men can work on community and private projects - making everything from bird nesting boxes to coffins - is giving them a sense of purpose and new friendships.

Kerikeri Men's Shed has been running for just over a year at a property on State Highway 10 near Kapiro.

Three mornings a week up to 15 men gather to saw, drill, turn, sand and shape. So far they have built a pirate ship set for a Peter Pan musical, 600 nesting and roosting boxes for Project Island Song, the fit-out for a Hospice Mid-Northland van, a storage shed, planter boxes, memorial seats and more.

One member, John Walst, is making no-frills coffins from Kerikeri-grown Japanese cedar. His own casket is currently in use as a nail cupboard.


Terry Playfair, the group's founding chairman, said Men's Sheds began in Australia as a means of combating suicide and depression among older men. The movement spread to New Zealand which now has 40 sheds, including those in Whangarei and Kerikeri. Efforts are underway to start a shed in Kaitaia.

Kerikeri Rotary Club got the ball rolling in late 2014 with two $1500 grants for equipment. Mr Playfair, who had run a Men's Shed in Queensland, was cajoled into being the first chairman, and another member offered a suitable - if initially dilapidated - building for the princely rental of $1 a year.

Mr Playfair said many members were retired or had been made redundant and were sitting around at home with nothing to do. Some had also been through health problems such as prostate cancer or heart surgery.

As well as keeping men occupied the shed gave them an entirely new circle of friends. Morning teas were occasions of considerable hilarity.

Member Trevor Dawkins, who attends twice a week, is making trestle tables and myna traps.

"When you get to our age you need something to do, to feel as though you're useful. Here you feel a sense of purpose, you get a bit of camaraderie, and it gets you out of the house instead of vegetating," he said.

Much of the group's work is for charities with the charity supplying the materials and the men doing the work for little or no cost.

They also take on jobs for local businesses and make things to sell, with the proceeds going into the kitty for new tools and machinery.

Mr Playfair said the biggest problem was getting enough new projects for keep the men busy.

The group has just over 30 members who meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

Call secretary Wade Rowsell on (09) 407 8263 for more information.