A Maniototo dairy farm is salvaging an old school building in Patearoa to use as a function room and hang-out spot for its roster of hardworking staff. Central Otago reporter Adam Burns spoke to Dairy Farm Partnership about how it has reaped the rewards of the site and how it continues to benefit the Patearoa community.
A Patearoa dairy farm and its employees are making use of a vacated school building in the Maniototo township.
The building at the defunct Patearoa School has been used as a social spot and function room for the dozens of workers at Patearoa dairy farm Dairy Farm Partnership (DFP) since last year.
It also has a table tennis table for patrons to blow off some steam.
The farm has been using the buildings as a social centre for its community of international workers, mostly expatriates from the Philippines.
DFP employee Bernie Jaherol, who has lived in New Zealand for 13 years, said the site was accessible, as he and his family lived metres from the school grounds.
''I have two kids so it is quite good. I sometimes do tidy-ups around the area.
''Anyone can come here and play games regularly but functions are monthly.''
The building was being used by staff about once a month, on average, DFP operations manager Chris Kelly said.
''The farm use it for management meetings and seminars.
''We've had team birthdays and end-of-year functions.''
On the work front, health and safety and first aid training sessions also had a base at the site, Kelly said.
The dairy farm is one of the largest operating out of Patearoa. It employs about 57 staff, including about 15 on casual contracts.
The spot was an addition to an affable team culture at the dairy farm.
''We all get on very well. The staff turnover is very low. This is my fifth year [at DFP].''
Although DFP has sole tenancy of the building, the wider Patearoa community would ultimately benefit from it, Kelly said.
''It's a great facility for our community.
''Other farms come here when we have dos as well and join in with us. I think it's a good thing.''
DFP's occupancy was formalised by the Maniototo Community Board at its meeting in Ranfurly last week, as the building would have been uninhabited otherwise, board chairman Robert Hazlett said.
A report by Central Otago District Council community facilities officer Janice Remnant said the farm had been using the building exclusively since December.
The Patearoa Community Trust had previously made the building available for the wider Patearoa community to use free of charge.
''Given the number of other facility buildings in the community, such as the bowling club, the golf club and the hall, the use of the school building is considered to be minimal,'' the report said.
Board members accepted a proposal from the trust to sublease the building to the farm to the end of 2021.
''Unless someone turns up in a few years' time and wants to turn it into a camping ground or a backpackers, what are you going to do with it?'' Hazlett said.
The school site, in Ranfurly-Patearoa Rd, has been leased from the Central Otago District Council by the trust since 2010 following the school's closure five years before.
The remaining areas of the school grounds, including the playground, tennis court and petanque piste, are available for residents to use free of charge.
The trust had expressed an intention to develop the site into a camping ground.
''The camping ground operation has not proceeded beyond self-contained campervans being permitted to park overnight on the reserve that nets no income,'' Remnant's report said.
Residents will be invited to hear submissions to the final draft of the community plan around ''camping opportunities'' next month.