Residents feel railroaded over council’s community room plan

Little Rakaia Huts residents came together to build their community room. Photo: Supplied
Little Rakaia Huts residents came together to build their community room. Photo: Supplied
Residents at Little Rakaia Huts are determined to hold onto their community room as the Selwyn District Council seeks to extend its use.

About 40 hut-holders turned out to a public meeting at the settlement’s community room recently, after becoming alarmed by the district council suggesting “alternative uses” for some halls and community centres.

Volunteers from the settlement constructed the community room, as an attached addition to the district council’s camping ground amenities block in 1997.

Little Rakaia Huts Community Committee secretary Debbie Jones said it had been a real community effort to get the room up and running.

As well as volunteer labour, residents had donated some of the fixtures.

“It is part of the heart of the community, I think if it goes, some of the heart will be lost because people can’t gather,” Jones said.

The room was used by the committee for community events, such as a mid-winter Christmas dinner and Melbourne Cup party, while there has been groups held there for exercise classes and craft meetings.

She said residents had felt “railroaded” as the district council considered opening up the hut for use as a lounge for visiting campers.

In a report on the future of community committees considered by district councillors last month, council management had suggested they may consider alternative uses for some halls and community centres based on their usage and other factors.

Management used Little Rakaia Huts as an example, stating it to be “more suited to a purpose as a community lounge, specifically supporting the camping grounds in which it is located.”

Jones said the high meeting turnout showed how much people cared about the issue.

“It was absolutely fantastic. So people care, they just want to make sure that it’s not taken away from us, because that’s the way we felt it was heading,” Jones said.

Mark Rykers.
Mark Rykers.
Two council senior managers, Mark Rykers and Douglas Marshall, had visited the settlement to talk with committee members prior to the meeting.

“They were very understanding and happy to chat and talk about what we needed,” Jones said.

She said the committee understood the district council’s aim to make sure the room was well-used, and it was now proposing to management that it could be opened up to be used as a camping ground lounge on certain dates, for example, once per week during the busy summer period.

Group manager property Douglas Marshall said it had been agreed when the community room was constructed, that residents would have access for meetings and gatherings at no cost.

“This arrangement has not been documented, and when staff moved to bring the community room into our new booking system, the arrangement has been identified,” Marshall said.

The district council was now working on a formal agreement with the community committee that would document this arrangement, as well as clarify when campers could use it.

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