The Men's Shed is chugging away nicely in the old Whangarei Railway Station and on track to apply for grants to repair the historic building it purchased for $1.
The group has used part of an Internal Affairs grant of $15,000 to have Whangarei heritage architect Geoff King draw up renovation plans for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust grade two listed building it has taken off Whangarei District Councils hands.
The NZHPT category means the station, built in the 1925, has regional but not national significance.
The Whangarei Mens Shed is not the first organisation to try to make use of and ultimately save the rundown station on the ragged edge of town, but it could possibly be the best fit.
"We're very interested in it for its historic nature, chairman Mike Mansell said. We want to restore it and were possibly the best placed organisation to do that."
"It's a double deal here for us. We do projects for outside bodies and at the same time the building is a project for us."
While the grants needed to turn the plans into work might be 6-12 months away, the fellows are doing what they can to get their required one-third of the costs together, over and above the regular fundraising projects that enable the Shed to be self-sufficient in terms of running costs.
The insurance, power, water and other bills are paid with profits from some projects, while other projects are provided free to the community. Rotary Club Whangarei provides the materials for park benches the Mens Shed makes for the council, the Men's Shed manages the Kamo War Memorial Hall, members are currently knocking up 100 rat traps for a local land care trust, and they made $6000 from sausage sizzles alone last year.
They also paid $9000 for machinery maintenance and repairs in the past financial year.
"Projects roll in," Mr Mansell said. "The 41 Men's Shed members can also work on their private tasks."
There are no women members, because they are not allowed.
"Yes, its sexist," Mr Mansell says. "But were offering elementary woodwork for women next month, one of them a 90-year-old woman who wants to make rocking horses."
There are 42 autonomous groups in the nationwide men's movement. The average age of the Whangarei group is 69 and 90 per cent are retired. On Mondays or Wednesdays they turn up, enjoy themselves, take very long coffee breaks, yarn about anything and everything, are productive and contribute to the community, Mr Mansell says.
His own mantra is: "It's not about the shed, its about the men. But key to the Sheds success is the building and, as a suitable project, its renovation is just the ticket."