Taneatua will soon boast the country's most beautiful police station as plans progress for the rebuild of the station destroyed by fire 18 months ago.
Draft plans for the community's new police base were unveiled at a meeting late last week and show a building similar to Tuhoe's Te Uru Taumatua landmark living building.
Area commander Stuart Nightingale described the first draft of the police base as "absolutely breathtaking".
"What we will see at Taneatua will be better and far more significant than anything we imagined.
"There was definitely a sense of excitement in the room when we all saw the design. This is far better than another prefabricated, colonial-looking building being dumped on the front of the property," he said.
The designers, Design Partners Architects, have a passion for bespoke design and timeless architecture and the first concept plan shows a building constructed mainly of timber with an environmentally sustainable design; a living building that is "passivhaus" and seeks to be self-sufficient, produces more energy than it uses and is thermally efficient.
The building will have a private space for police operations but no holding cells.
It will also have a public space for hui, a shared kitchenette, and a covered outdoor space with room for larger hui and barbeques. A community garden, which extends into council reserve from the covered outdoor space, is also proposed.
Nightingale said the design of the building would encourage people passing by to stop and go inside for a look. While there, visitors would be able to read about the history of the community the police base aims to serve.
"It will tell the history of each iwi and their relationship with the Crown and, in my view, be completely transparent about that," he said.
"It will say why we built this building in this way and about the friendship and relationship with Tuhoe and the wider community."
To inform the design of the building, police held two hui with the Taneatua community where residents said they wanted to feel connected to the building, to feel protection not prosecution, and for the building to have a community focus.
Nightingale said the overall themes – connection, protection, community, and presence – came directly from the community and had contributed to the first draft of the building.
"The building will capture that feedback really, really well," he said.
"Everyone who was at the meeting last week was 'thumbs up' to what they saw on screen."
The community asked for a place where they would feel safe to approach police and for the building to feel like a part of the community and not a place where only negative interactions happened.
They wanted a place for community groups to gather to educate young people, for the building to reflect its surroundings and the values of the Taneatua community, and for it to be sustainable.
Yesterday, police had a meeting to discuss the "nuts and bolts" with its team of what the secure, operational part of the building might look like and how it would function within the wider community hub.
"That was a very positive meeting and now we need to go back to reworking the final design and I'm looking forward to seeing another draft drawing," Nightingale said.
He was unable to give specific time frames on when construction will begin but community representatives are sure it will be worth the wait.
Honey Thrupp was originally feeling extremely frustrated by the length of time it was taking to get a new police base following the fire in December 2018.
"At first I wasn't warmed to it; I wanted the police presence back," she said.
"I didn't care what the station looked like, but now I really, really, like it.
"This may take a little longer, but it will be worth it for the building we will be getting."
Thrupp said the design of the police base would fit in well with Tuhoe's living building and the proposed eco-village in Taneatua and would uplift the community.
That the base will be community minded really appealed to Thrupp and she hoped to see some of the police back on the barbecue again.
She hoped the new station would bring the community and police back together.
"I'm really excited about it, we're going to have the best police station in the country, how's that for Taneatua?" she said.
Deputy mayor and Whakatane District Council representative for the Taneatua ward, Andrew Iles, had been pushing hard for the razed police station to be replaced for some time.
"It's been a long journey for our community to get to this stage," he said.
"I've been receiving constant phone calls and messages from people wanting to know what's happening as having a police presence in our rural community is crucial."
Iles said it was important to remember the station didn't just serve Taneatua but also the more isolated communities of Ruatoki, Waimana, Matahi and Nukuhou and it could take some time for police to arrive from Whakatāne.