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Lower Hutt Community Centres: Final Statement (1950)


Chapter 6
The Community Centre Scheme (continued)
The Lower Hutt Provisional Community Centre Committee

Set-up of the Provisional Committee; the Committee confirms, extends, or amends the recommendations of the original Community Centre Committee; a postal ballot arranged; publicity preceding the poll; defeat of poll; decision by Naenae to conduct independent survey of opinion in Naenae; success of Naenae petition; acceptance of petition by both Provisional Committee and Lower Hutt City Council; Provisional Committee adopts a final report for submission to Government; report endorsed by City Council.
The Lower Hutt Provisional Community Centre Committee (as the body set up by Cabinet authority was called) had the following membership: Mr E. P. Hay (Mayor of Lower Hutt, Chairman), Councillor W. C. Gregory and Councillor F. Lonsdale (Lower Hutt City Council), Mr H. G. Burrell (Epuni), Mr R. S. V. Simpson (Naenae), Mr J. Ferguson (Taita), Mr W. L. Robertson (Hutt Valley Consumers' Cooperative Society Ltd.), and Mr L. W. Woods (the Government).
When City Council committees were re-formed after the 1947 local body elections, Councillor Gregory gave place to Councillor E. J. B. Matthews.
Mr Simpson (Naenae) and Mr Ferguson (Taita) were appointed by the recently-formed area committees, and Mr Burrell (Epuni) by the Epuni Residents Association.
In addition to these full members of the Provisional Committee, all those persons (State Department representatives and others) who had worked with the original Community Centre Committee were invited to attend meetings and to continue to assist with the planning, in advisory capacities as co-opted members. They all did so and made many useful contributions, notably Mr Woods and Mr Plishke
The following City Council officers also regularly attended the Provisional Committee's meetings: Mr H. Reynolds Bach, City Engineer, Mr R. D. Hill, Town Planner, and Mr A. White, Superintendent of Reserves. Mr H. B. Thompson, an officer of the Council, was Hon. Secretary.
Mr A. G. Long, the new-appointed adult education tutor-organiser
for the Hutt Valley, was co-opted for advice and general assistance. His senior officer, Mr A. S. Hely, Director of the Regional Council for Adult Education, Victoria University College, represented the Regional Council.

Appointment of Physical Director

In January 1948 Mr N. Helleur, a physical instructor who had received training at Loughborough College, Leicestershire, England, recently, was seconded by the Department of Internal Affairs (Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch) to the Provisional Committee to make a start with the development of physical recreational activities.
Mr Helleur's appointment was secured mainly through the good offices of Mr Woods and, of course, the officers of the Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch.

Work of the Provisional Committee

The Provisional Committee held ten meetings, the first being on 2nd July 1947 and the last on 22nd June 1948. Various sub-committees met frequently.
The work of the Committee consisted in the main in confirming, extending, and in certain cases amending the pioneering recommendations of the original Community Centre Committee of the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council.
Thus, under Organisation and Administration, the proposed set-up of a statutory controlling Board - consisting of the Mayor of Lower Hutt as Chairman, two City Councillors, three area representatives, one State representative, and one Co-operative Society representative - was formally approved, but the proposed Central Management Committee was deleted, its functions to be assumed by the Board. The Draft Act was considered, and after reference to a legal sub-committee was endorsed with certainminor amondments.
Under Finance, the recommendations of the original Committee were accepted practically in their entirety. The limit to capital costs was reduced from £300,000 to £285,000, as certain works such as
gardens and games areas were now to be the full responsibility of the City Council. It was agreed that the Government should be asked to contribute half this capital cost as a subsidy, and that the remainder be raised by loan by the City Council. The special rating proposal, involving increments on State rentals not exceeding one shilling a week, was endorsed as the basic method for obtaining assured finance for debt and maintenance charges.
The layout plans for Buildings were developed and refined to the point where they were ready for presentation to the residents of the community centre areas. In this task the Provisional Committee (as with the original Community Centre Committee) had the benefit of detailed advice from the Epuni, Naenae, and Taita area representatives, who inconsultation with their local committees were able to indicate with authority the scope and variety of local needs. Mr Plishke, head of the Community Planning Section of the Housing Construction Department, translated into architectural terms the decisions regarding accommodation and building requirements made by the Provisional Committee.
With its planning work approaching completion the Committee began to consider the best means for submitting their proposals to the people mainly concerned - the residents of the three community centre areas. The formal approval of these residents would of course be essential before the community centre scheme could be proceeded with, especially as a special rating proposal was involved. It was finally decided to hold a postal ballot of all those on the local electoral roll or eligible to be on it. The date of polling was fixed for the period 20th April to 24th April, 1948.

The Poll Campaign

Up till now, because of the unfinished state of the plans, it had not been practicable to give much publicity to them or to the community centre scheme in general. But before the taking of the poll it was evidently necessary that the residents of the areas concerned should receive full and clear information. Accordingly it was decided to organise an intensive publicity campaign, to extend
over a period of three months before the holding of the poll? Mr Long and I were entrusted to make the arrangements, which we did in association with the three area representatives and their local committees. All arrangements were of course approved by the Provisional Committee before being proceeded with.
Publicity was of various kinds. In the first place Mr Long and I prepared a 16-page booklet called "A Community Centre For You", in which text and illustration gave the story of the Hutt Valley community centre scheme. Sections were devoted to the proposed financial arrangements - the State subsidy, the loan, and the special rating scheme - and to the plan of organisation and control. A foreword by Mr Hay, Chairman of the Provisional Committee and Mayor of Lower Hutt, read as follows:-
I feel very greatly privileged in commending the scheme for Community Centres described in this booklet. The scheme is in many respects unique; it may safely be claimed that never before in New Zealand has such an opportunity offered itself to avoid the mistakes of the past and to plan and build upon sound and liberal lines the social, recreational, and cultural facilities of a fair-sized town.
In the now areas of the City of Lower Hutt certain public spaces have been set aside for community needs. At the moment these spaces at Epuni, Naenae, and Taita are mere grass-covered meadows. Unmistakably, therefore, they present a challenge to us. Shall we leave their development to chance and haphazard enterprise, or shall we consciously transform them into true centres of community life - centres of which you as citizens will have a hand in the planning.
Admittedly, buildings alone do not make a community - not oven the attractive structures contemplated in the present scheme. But, by making possible community activities of all kinds, they provide essential encouragement to the growth of a spirit of good neighbourhood.
Let us seize this opportunity to realise for ourselves and for our children this bold and imaginative plan.
E. P. Hay
Mayor of Lower Hutt,
Chairman, Lower Hutt Provisional Community
Centre Committee.
31st January, 1948.
Almost four thousand of these booklets were distributed to the
householders of Epuni, Naenae and Taita early in February. With the booklet went copies of three separate plans for community centre buildings for the three areas. These had been prepared by Mr Plishke and his staff and printed in two colours by the Government Printer by arrangement with the Provisional Committee. Each plan included a draft for a long-term building development as well as what was called "Stage One", shown in colour. Stage One, in each case, represented an initial building programme designed to meet the immediate and urgent needs for community centre accommodation.
At the same time the distribution of a little fortnightly newspaper, called "Community News", was begun. This paper, edited by Mr Long, gave more details of the community centre scheme, answered questions, contained articles by specialists in community recreation, cultural activities, etc., and, as well, gave news reports of existing community activities and notices of meetings. The last issue, on April 17th, contained as a supplement three perspective drawings by Mr Plishke, reproduced on art paper, of the proposed buildings.
Two broadcasts were arranged, the first by Mr H. C. D. Somerset, late Director of the Feilding Community Centre, on 1st March (over 2YA), and the second by the Mayor, Mr Hay, on the eve of the poll, on 19th April (2YC). In his talk Mr Somerset said that "the committee has done its work well and, if the full scheme comes into being, it will set a new standard in community life. "My Hay summarised the whole scheme, covering the facilities for community use that had been planned and the proposals for organisation, administration, and finance.
In each of the three communities of Epuni, Naenae, and Taita public meetings (organised by the area committees) were held during the period of the campaign and addressed by various speakers. Those meetings provided a forum for general discussion of all aspects of the proposals. Mr Somerset was the principal speaker on several occasions and made a deep impression by his wide understanding of the community centre idea and his sympathetic support for the Lower Hutt plans.
With the friendly co-operation of the Editor of the Hutt News weekly articles appeared in that newspaper. Also, in the Hutt News and the Wellington papers there was much correspondence, which when necessary was replied to by Mr Long, myself, and others. Just before the poll there were leading articles in both the Southern Cross and the Evening Post on the scheme, highly commending it.
Because it was felt that this community centre scheme had very important national implications and because Parliamentary action would be necessary to implement it, copies of all the formal publicity material - the booklet, the building plans and perspectives, the "Community News", and the texts of the two broadcasts - were mailed to every Member of Parliament.
As will be readily appreciated, by the end of the publicity campaign a great deal of local interest and discussion had been aroused.

Costs of the Poll and Publicity Campaign

To meet the costs of the postal ballot and the publicity campaign the Provisional Committee received grants from various quarters. The Internal Affairs Department, which had always shown a very keen interest in the community centre proposals, contributed more than £300. The Lower Hutt City Council gave £165, the Hutt Valley Consumers' Co-operative Society £25, and the Community Centre Committees of Epuni, Naenae, and Taita £10 each.

Result of Poll

To the disappointment of the Provisional Committee, the Area Committees, and all those who bore the scheme goodwill the poll was lost by a narrow margin. 55% of those entitled to vote, did so, 2069 voting for the scheme and 2515 against.
I do not propose to enquire into the causes of this defeat. It is interesting to note, however, that Mr Somerset, whose experience with community centres and with those who use them is greater than that of anyone else in New Zealand, was by no means discouraged. As he pointed out, the scheme was something totally new for this country, and for new things it was proverbially difficult to get
immediate support, no matter how good and beneficial they might be Mr Somerset thought that all things considered the actual measure of support shown was most promising and encouraging.

Reaction in Naenae

Whatever the causes of defeat over the Epuni, Naenae, Taita area as a whole, there was evidence in Naenae that the voting there had been substantially in favour of the scheme. The Naenae Community Centre Committee were so impressed with this evidence that without loss of time they determined to put the question to the test by conducting an independent survey of opinion in their own community. The means they decided upon was a petition, addressed to the Provisional Committee and signed by those favouring the implementing of the scheme insofar as it applied to Naenae. When the proposal wars referred to them for opinion, the Provisional Committee agreed to receive the petition when completed.

Approval of Idea of Petition by Government and Internal Affairs Dept.

As soon as the decision to organise a petition had been made by the Naenae Committee and endorsed by the Provisional Committee the latter's Government representative, Mr Woods, formally conveyed this decision in writing to Hon. C. F. Skinner, the Cabinet Minister who had been instrumental in constituting the Provisional Committee and to whom it was responsible. The fact that Mr Skinner made no comment was sufficient indication, stated Mr Woods, that the Government approved the idea of such a petition. Approval, also, was expressed by spokesmen for the Department of Internal Affairs.

Success of Petition

Over twenty Naenae citizens assisted with the circulation of the petition. Practically every household was visited and both husband and wife given the opportunity of signing. The result was highly gratifying and justified the faith of the Naenae Community Centre Committee - two-thirds of the residents declared themselves in favour of the scheme.
The wording of the petition was as follows:-
We, householders of Naenae, feeling that the result of the
Community Contro Poll did not indicate our own attitude to the scheme, request the Lower Hutt Provisional Community Centre Committee to proceed with a scheme for the Naenae area.
We understand, if the scheme is confined to the Naenae area, that it will still be practicable to proceed with Stage One, but that the scope of further development will be limited by the funds available.
We agree to the financial arrangements as originally proposed, namely, family contributions of not more than one shilling a week per house, collected through corresponding additions to our rents or rates.

Petition Accepted by the Provisional Committee

On 22nd June 1948, at its final meeting, the Provisional Committee received the petition from the Naenae Community Centre Committee and unanimously accepted it as a true expression of opinion, fairly and openly arrived at. It was agreed that the measure of support shown amply justified proceeding with a community centre scheme for Naenae. The explicit wording of the petition with regard to the financial commitments excited favourable comment.
The Provisional Committee thereupon adopted the following report:-

Report of the Lower Hutt Provisional Community Centre Committee

The Committee was set up by Cabinet minute of the 28th May 1947, its order of reference being set out as:-
"to place before Government a detailed scheme including legislation required, plans, costs, and suggested methods of finance."
for the proposed Community Centres in the Hutt Valley.
The Committee has since held 10 meetings, in the course of which very thorough consideration has been given to the matters referred to it. The scheme was reduced to a practicable form which is set out in the attached booklet and plans. This booklet and the plans were distributed to all householders in the area, A poll of those eligible to vote on municipal matters in the area was held and the result was:-
For the scheme 2069
Against 2415
Informal 6
Majority against 346
The Naenae area has protested that it considers the scheme was carried in its area, and that consequently, the scheme should be proceeded with as far as Naenae is concerned. A petition to this effect has been presented by 1259 householders representing 65 per cent. of those in the Naenae area. The Committee accepts the position as set out in that petition.
Consequently the Committee recommends to Government that the major scheme be deferred for the present as the community
is apparently not ready for it, but that the reduced Naenae scheme as set out in Stage One of the Naenae plan should be proceeded with.
The Committee feels that although the scheme of control by a Board is ideal, it would be too elaborate for the control of one Community Centre, and that the responsibility should be undertaken at least for the present by the Lower Hutt City Council whom this Committee recommends to delegate control of the Centre to a special committee comprising the Mayor and two Councillors together with two representatives of the area.
The estimated cost of Stage One of the Naenae scheme is £60,000 of which this Committee recommends the Government to contribute half by way of grant, the balance to be raised by the Lower Hutt City Council as a loan secured by a rate across all houses in the area, the State to agree to pay an extra amount on each State house equal to the rate thus falling on private houses, this amount to be recouped from the tenant by an increased rente.

Report Endorsed by Lower Hutt City Council

This report was transmitted to the Lower Hutt City Council and endorsed at the Council's meeting on 12th July 1948. The Council decided to forward the report to the Government for consideration and action.

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