Consultation on a proposed joint council/iwi/community hub in Raetihi is ending its first stage, with the business community invited to a meeting on June 16.
Project manager Cathy McCartney would like all business owners to attend and give their views about what the hub could be. The Business After 5 meeting is at the Raetihi Cosmopolitan Club in Seddon St at 5.30pm.
McCartney has already heard from a lot of individuals and groups, including youth, and Uenuku treaty project manager Steve Hirini has consulted with iwi.
"[Business owners are] the last group that we feel needs to have the opportunity," Hirini said.
The two are still open to other ideas, and another letterbox drop and holiday doorknocking are planned.
However, this first phase of consultation - the time for wishes and dreaming - is drawing to a close.
Ideas that have come through so far are a co-working space for new people in the area who have been working from home, a commercial kitchen, a gathering space, a job training space, a space to learn about and use digital technology and a space to tell the stories of central North Island iwi.
Not a lot had been written about Uenuku, Tamahaki and Tamakana compared to the more established iwi that surround them, Hirini said.
"That's what we want to share, is our stories."
The hub might display some taonga repatriated from elsewhere. But it wouldn't be a cultural centre as such, Hirini said, because the iwi had other aspirations for that.
Hard details like its location and who will pay for it haven't been decided yet, but it will definitely be in the town's main drag, Seddon St.
Ruapehu District Council allocated $1.5 million toward the proposal in its 2018-28 Long Term Plan, and the Ministry for Primary Industries has paid for the engagement costs.
Uenuku's iwi groups are putting money aside for the hub. They can get more funding through relationships with Crown agencies, and through other sources.
"We don't think it should be entirely a burden on the ratepayers," Hirini said.
The idea of a multipurpose hub in a joint venture by Ruapehu District Council and the Uenuku Charitable Trust dates back to consultation on the council's 2018-28 Long Term Plan.
Upgrading or replacing the Raetihi Service Centre was proposed then. At the same time Uenuku was progressing the area's Treaty of Waitangi claims.
The Uenuku Charitable Trust had operated from a leased building in Raetihi for about five years. It signed an agreement in principle with the Crown in November 2018 and knew it would need another building for its post settlement governance entity.
By working together, Uenuku and the council would be able to provide a flexible, multi-function facility well beyond what either organisation could deliver on its own, Hirini said.
Consultation was about to get under way in February last year when Covid-19 struck. The council employed McCartney to lead a consultation steering group, and consultancy Horwath HTL to write a report.
The report said a new hub would be better than upgrading the current centre and consultation began in earnest in December last year.
The hub will not be the only improvement to services in Raetihi. The Government has allocated $2m to upgrade the town's Waimarino Health Centre.
Consultation on that could result in a new centre, provisionally named the Ruapehu Wellness Centre and opening in 2023.
That consultation is led by Ngāti Rangi's Erena Mikaere. McCartney is looking to set up a conversation between the two parties.