Koha Shed founder and manager Sherron Sunnex says there is a lot that a community can do to help its members thrive.

"We can't expect the government to fix everything.

"There is a lot that we can all do to help people feel included and cared for."

That is not to say that she believes government policies are conducive to assisting people.


"I think it is wrong that just because people are poor, they should lose their right to privacy.

"I talk to mothers who are asked to spend ages at WINZ with their kids to prove that they don't have enough food.

"They have to do that to get a referral for the food banks and sometimes the food banks have closed by the time they can get there."

The Koha Shed provides emergency food parcels for families and Ms Sunnex said it is wonderful to be able to add produce from the Shed's own garden now.

The garden in the back yard of the Koha Shed's premises in Duncan St is thriving since it was first established at the end of 2015.

"People need good nutrition and it is important that struggling families get nourishing food.

"I want to have food boxes here that will get families through the weekend with enough to keep them well nourished for a few days."

Ms Sunnex is recovering from recent hip replacement surgery and says she is fired up with new ideas and excited by the possibilities for a large horse float that has been donated to the Koha Shed.

"We wanted to get it nicely painted with a colourful mural and have it parked at the front where it will be an all-hours stop for people," she says.

Whanganui City College students have been among the volunteers helping at the Koha Shed with designing and painting murals.

"I think they will be able to do something really nice with the float," says Ms Sunnex.

Plans for expanding the garden, creating income-generating options for young people and working out ways to support the homeless are all on her mind.

Fortunately, she has good support from helpers like Sarah Aramakutu and several others who regularly volunteer their time to help with the garden and the Koha Shed.

"Whanganui people are incredibly generous too," she says.

"We get so many amazing donations and most people who benefit are really grateful but some are very hard-nosed.

"I have to point out to some that the people who donate things work hard for what they have."

Ms Sunnex said if people have more chance to connect and understand each other better, there will be fewer problems like crime and suicide.

The Koha Shed has come a long way since Ms Sunnex and her daughter-in-law Meegan Manuka first set up in her garage in 2012.

It was during the 2015 floods in Whanganui that the Koha Shed really came to prominence - inspiring others to set up around New Zealand and overseas.

Working from a temporary base in Hakeke St, Ms Sunnex and teams of regular volunteers distributed food, furniture and clothing while teams went out to shovel mud from flooded properties.

Ms Sunnex said a team from the Ministry of Social Development will be visiting the Koha Shed soon and she is pleased that they want to come and listen and share ideas.