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Lower Hutt Community Centres: Final Statement (1950)

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Chapter 2
The Hutt Valley Community Planning Council

I suggest the setting up of a community planning organisation in the Hutt Valley to prepare schemes for (a) consumer services, (b) health services, (c) social, recreational, and cultural services; this suggestion is accepted by leaders of the Epuni, Naenae, Taita State Housing settlements and approved by the Government; the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council is formed.
So Far, I had discussed neither health centres nor community centres with the residents of Naenae. One thing at a time. It was essential, I thought, to get the consumers' co-operative proposals well under way before suggesting further planning undertakings.
After the establishment of the Naenae Consumers' Co-operative Society, however, I began to take up with certain of these residents the possibilities of creating a planning organisation to be responsible for not only consumers' co-operative development but health services and social, recreational, and cultural services as well. I found an immediately favourable response.
The interest in these possibilities, moreover, was not confined to Naenae alone but was found to extend to the neighbouring State Housing settlements of Epuni and Taita. The house building programme in Epuni was nearly complete, but (as in Naenae) no start whatever had been made with the erection of shops or public buildings nor with the provision of community amenities. The building of houses in Taita had but recently begun, and the number of occupied dwellings was very small.
These three localities - Epuni, Naenae, and Taita - could be regarded as one State Housing scheme. They offered an unrivalled opportunity for community planning and development on modern, progressive lines. The total population in State houses alone (on the completion of the housing scheme) would be of the order of 20,000 - the equivalent of a fair-sized town. In each of the three localities a central area of several acres extent ("neighbourhood centres") had been set aside by the town planners for the main shops and various public buildings and community purposes in general. At selected points, also, there were reservations for
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secondary shopping centres. But all these areas and reservations were still mere grass-covered fields.
The question was, how to make the best use of these fields for the provision of community services and amenities of all kinds? Neither the Government nor the Housing Construction Department, it was known, had any definitive plans. But planning was clearly needed.
As soon as I was satisfied that the people of these three settlements - Epuni, Naenae, Taita - would welcome some kind of community planning initiative, I put it both to Mr Skinner and to my Departmental chief, Mr R. P. Fraser, Director of Marketing, that I should include the promotion of this wider field of planning activity within my official duties. These duties were at best ill-defined, and I argued that they could well be extended in the way I had in mind. Mr Skinner was all in favour. I prepared a lengthy memorandum on my ideas for Mr Fraser. He gave me authority to use my time and whatever secretarial resources of the Department I needed for the development of my proposals.

Emergence of the Planning Scheme

By this time I was in touch with the following local organisations of residents: Naenae Progressive Association, Naenae Consumers' Co-operative Society, Epuni Residents' Association, Epuni Consumers' Co-operative Society (on which a note appears in the next chapter), and the Northern Hutt Progressive Association. (Corresponding bodies had not as yet been set up in Taita.) To the Executives of these organisations I put the following scheme.
I proposed that a central planning body be set up to plan community services for the growing State Housing settlements of Epuni, Naenae, and Taita, and that its personnel include representatives of:
(a)
the local residents (to stimulate local interest and initiative, to ensure local participation in the planning tasks, and to make sure that the planning should proceed in accordance with local needs and wishes.)
(b)
interested State Departments such as Housing, Health,
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Education, Internal Affairs (to provide expert guidance and advice and practical assistance in plan drawing, etc.)
(c)
interested private individuals and organisations able and willing to assist with some aspect or other of the proposed planning activity.
This central planning body, I suggested in a memorandum, should concern itself with the planning of three main fields of community services: (1) consumer services (including shops, bakeries, restaurants, hotels, theatres, etc.), (2) health services (including both curative and preventive services), and (3) social, recreational, and cultural services (including halls, libraries, gymnasia, clubrooms, and outdoor recreational facilities.)
My proposals were accepted in broad outline, and with a gratifying show of interest, by the Executives of the organisations named above, and were sot out in a letter dated 6th February 1946 which those Executives jointly sent to the following Ministers:
Rt. Hon. P. Fraser, Prime Minister
Rt. Hon. W. Nash, Minister of Finance (and Member of Parliament for Hutt)
Hon. D. G. Sullivan, Minister of Industries and Commerce
Hon. R. Semple, Minister in charge of State Housing
Hon. H. G. R. Mason, Minister of Education
Hon. W. E. Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs
Hon. A. H. Nordmeyer, Minister of Health
Hon. Ben Roberts, Minister of Marketing
Hon. C. F. Skinner, Minister of Rehabilitation
The letter concluded with the paragraph: "If we appear presumptuous in proposing measures involving State Departments, we beg to submit that we have an important contribution to make to the solution of the problem of community development; and that it is because we are proud of the work the Government has already done that we are anxious to contribute something ourselves to build, under ideal conditions, a planned community. We believe that if advantage is taken of our unique opportunities we can set new
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standards in living conditions in urban communities which will be an inspiration to others and a credit to New Zealand."

Ministerial Reception of Proposals

In response to this letter a meeting to discuss its contents was held on 26th March 1946 in Mr Nash's office. Those present were:
Rt. Hon. W. Nash
Hon. W. E. Parry
Hon. A. H. Nordmeyer
Mr H. E. Combs, M. P.
Mr R. S. V. Simpson, President, Naenae Progressive Association
Mr H. G. Burrell, President, Epuni Residents' Association
Mr H. V. Horlor, Executive member, Northern Hutt Progressive Association
Mr J. S. Berry, President, Naenae Consumers' Co-operative Society
Mr H. E. Larkin, President, Epuni Consumers' Co-operative Society
Mr R. H. Ellis, Chairman, Taita Co-operative "pro tem" Committee (just recently formed)
Mr W. L. Robertson, representing the Co-operative Information Service
Mr A. G. Harper, Assistant Under-Secretary, Internal Affairs Department
A long and friendly discussion was held Mr Simpson outlined the planning scheme, emphasising that its success would to a great extent depend upon assistance by way of advice and expert guidance from certain State Departments, and asked how that assistance could best be given.
Mr Nash, supported by his colleagues, thought that every State Department concerned would be willing to help, and would be prepared to nominate officers to act in a co-opted capacity with any planning body that might be set up. These officers would make available their expert knowledge and experience, would advice, and could attend meetings when subjects within their particular fields were due for discussion. Mr Nash felt sure that if the Ministers of these Departments were approached, they would be very willing to authorise such informal appointments.
All Ministers present commended the planning proposals and under-
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took to assist their development in every way within their powers.

Formation of Hutt Valley Community Planning Council

After the meeting with the Ministers immediate arrangements were made by the Executives afore-mentioned to set up what came to be known as the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council. The constitution of this body followed very closely the lines of my original proposals. Hon® C. F. Skinner, Minister of Rehabilitation, was invited to accept the office of Patron, and did so. Mr H. G. Burrell was elected Chairman, Mr R. S. V. Simpson Vice-chairman, and myself Secretary.
One of the Council's first acts was to write to the Ministers of a number of State Departments inviting them to appoint representatives to assist the Council in co-opted capacities with advice and technical help. As a result the following Departmental officers were appointed:
Mr G. F. Wilson and Mr E. A. Plishke (Housing Department)
Dr H. B. Turbott (Health Department)
Mr L. W. Woods (internal Affairs Department)
Mr A. B. Thomson (Education Department)
Mr W. Hay (State Advances Corporation)
Following closely my original proposals the Council divided itself into three committees to plan consumer services, health services, and social, recreational, and cultural services. An early group of decisions established what might be called the Council's "ideological approach" to its three-fold planning task. First, it was agreed that the shops and other consumer services should be planned as "consumers' co-operative" services, according to the well-known principles and methods (discussed in Chapter l) of Roehdale Consumers' Co-operation. Second, that the health services should be planned as a system of "health centres", according to the principles advocated by Mr Douglas Robb and his professional colleagues of the Medical Study Group. And third, that the social, recreational, and cultural services should be planned to form a modern, multi-purpose "community centre". Accordingly the
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Council's three committees were named the Consumers' Co-operative Committee, the Health Centre Committee, and the Community Centre Committee.
As provided by its constitution, the main function of the Council would be to co-ordinate the plans of its member committees, with the objective of eliminating duplication and overlapping and producing an overall scheme with a high degree of architectural and functional harmony and unity.
For reasons which will soon become clear, however, the Council was never called upon to exercise this function. Its story now becomes merely the story of the three committees, which will be told in the following chapters.

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