By CATHY ARONSON
TE AWAMUTU - One man's dream to save the Te Awamutu railway station may have come true only weeks before Tranz Rail was due to demolish it.
Tuffy Burchell, who is 81, has spent the past four months cleaning up the vandalised station and trying to find a good use for it.
Tranz Rail agreed to give Mr Burchell, who lives in Te Awamutu, until January before demolishing the station.
The Waipa District Council had asked that the eye-sore be destroyed.
Three weeks ago, the Children's Art Foundation seriously considered turning the station into an arts centre for children.
But last week Tranz Rail turned down the foundation's proposal.
It said the station would be demolished within weeks and replaced with a fibreglass shelter.
Mr Burchell accepted defeat and began removing plywood, which he had used to cover broken windows, and returning paint given by local businesses.
Then Tranz Rail said it was still considering the proposal, and the station would not be demolished in the short term.
Tranz Rail spokeswoman Nicola McFaull said there had been some mis-communication.
Foundation national network director Shona Hammond Boys said she was appalled that Tranz Rail had not been honest with the community, and she was offended that it had changed its position.
"Train stations represent the belly of the community. Tuffy was like the last bastion trying to save the station for his community."
She said the foundation still wanted to use the building, but would now need a watertight and community-minded proposal from Tranz Rail.
Deputy Mayor Peter McCullough said the council had written to Tranz Rail to support the project and had withdrawn its demolition request.
"We only wanted to demolish it because we had failed for years to find a suitable tenant and make the place safe, and we couldn't put ratepayers' money into something that didn't belong to the ratepayers."
The station had been a haven for the homeless and a target for vandalism since Tranz Rail stopped using it in 1996.
Mr Burchell said the station had not been vandalised since he had started renovating it.
This is not Mr Burchell's first community project. It took him five years to build Te Awamutu's information centre, which is still open 35 years later.