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Lower Hutt Community Centres: Final Statement (1950)


Chapter 7
The Community Centre Scheme (continued)
Reception of Scheme by Government

  • Section a July - November
    Both Mr Skinner and Mr Parry disclaim responsibility; Cabinet not interested; Cabinet loses report; report is found; Mr Nash knows nothing of report, of Cabinet discussion, or of City Council's letter; adventures of the report.
  • Section B. January - May
    New Year arrives and no decision from Government; pressure on Mr Nash at last produces results; scheme approved - subsidy offered and legislation promised.
  • Section C. June - October
    City Council prepares a Bill; City Council Community Centre Committee seeks appointment of a Naenae Community Centre Director; appointment promised by Education Department and then withdrawn; Bill passed.
  • Section D. Conclusions

Section a July - November

The Time had now come for the Government to examine the Naenae community centre proposals and to arrive at some conclusion regarding them. Specifically, decisions were required on the proposed subsidy and on the special rating schemes If the subsidy were granted and authority received for putting the rating scheme into operation, the City Council could then at once proceed with the setting up of a permanent community centre committee, the engaging of architects, and so on; in a word, with the practical development of the Naenae project.
When Mr W. Mildenhall, Hon. Secretary of the Naenae Community Centre Committee, had reported to the Provisional Committee the plans for organising a petition, he had said that it was proposed to push the canvass through as quickly as possible in order that the Government might have time to prepare and pass any legislation necessary before the end of the current session of Parliament. Otherwise, as he pointed out, the scheme would most probably be hold up for a year.
Actually, with the endorsement by the City Council the scheme was ready for submission to the Government by 14th July, so that more than four months remained before the session concluded for
Governmental consideration and action.
But now that the time had arrived for the Government to examine the proposals and make a decision, let us see in what manner they shouldered this duty. The tale is a sorry one of Ministerial shuffling of responsibility, procrastination, and delay.
At the final meeting of the Provisional Committee the Chairman, Mr Hay, agreed to present the Committee's Report personally to the Government. My Hay requested Mr Woods and myself to make the necessary preliminary arrangements with Mr Skinner.
I have already, I hope, made clear the Hon. Mr Skinner's role in the Lower Hutt Community Centre development. As Patron of the Hutt Valley Community Planning Council he was the Minister who had secured Cabinet approval and authority for the setting up of the Provisional Community Centre Committee. He, also, was the Minister to whom the Provisional Committee had to regard itself as responsible, as he himself explicitly recognised in the following paragraph (already quoted) of his letter to the Mayor of Lower Hutt dated 5th June 1948:
"I shall look forward to receiving in due course the provisional committee's report and plans and, after consultation with the Minister of Internal Affairs, shall arrange for them to receive consideration by the Government."

Mr Skinner Is Not Interested

In accordance with Mr Hay's request I got in touch with Mr Skinner's office and asked for an interview for Mr Woods and myself, that we might bring the Minister up to date with the progress of the community centre plans and arrange for his reception of the Provisional Committee's Report from the hands of Mr Hay. But it was a full six weeks before the Minister found time to see us; the interview itself, when it was finally hold, was disappointing and unsatisfactory. Mr Skinner was unable to avoid revealing that he lad lost all interest in the Community centre proposals. When we asked him his views (as Patron of the Planning Council, etc. ) on the manner of their formal presentation to him and to the Government,
he intimated that it had really nothing to do with him as Minister of Rehabilitation and that we had better make our representations to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Parry. He then switched to another subject.
(There is no evidence that on any subsequent occasion - despite his early championship - did Mr Skinner evince any interest in or exert his influence on behalf of the Naenae community centre scheme. It is certain that, notwithstanding his undertaking to the Mayor of Lower Hutt quoted above, he never discussed the Provisional Committee's Report with the Minister of Internal Affairs.)
Mr Woods and I reported this interview to Mr Hay, and suggested that without more ado he should present the Report to Mr Parry. The Mayor agreed to this, an interview with the Minister was arranged, and on 15th September Mr Hay, Mr Woods, Mr R. J. Bender (officer in charge of the Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch of the Internal Affairs Department) and I found ourselves in Mr Parry's office.
Mr Hay explained the purpose of the interview and on behalf of the Lower Hutt City Council and the Lower Hutt Provisional Community Centre Committee handed to the Minister a letter containing the Provisional Committee's Report with the Council's endorsement. Mr Parry's reactions on receiving it caused surprise.

Mr Parry Disclaims Responsibility

We all knew of course that Mr Parry was interested in community centres as war memorials. But we felt that his interest was broader than that and embraced community centres as things good in themselves, worthy of Government support. The Minister had long since been informed that the Naenae scheme was not (for certain good reasons) a memorial one, and he had never hitherto commented upon that fact to criticise it. Indeed, he had always seemed to show considerable interest in the Naenae proposals, and had carried copies of the booklet and building plans about New Zealand with him to show to local bodies as an example of the way in which the question of community centre promotion should be tackled.
Yet, at our interview with him, when Mr Hay touched upon the non-memorial nature of the proposed Naenae community centre, the
Minister to our astonishment exclaimed that if the centre were not to be a war memorial then neither he nor his Department were in any way concerned with or interested in it.'
There ensued a lengthy but inconclusive discussion on this point between Mr Parry and Mr Hay. Finally, as the Minister was terminating the interview and it was clear that he was not disposed to accept responsibility for the Lower Hutt City Council's representations (contained in the communication handed him by the Mayor), Mr Hay asked him if he would be good enough to pass those representations on to whichever of his colleagues they did in fact concern.
Mr Parry made no reply to this, but hurriedly left the room.
From this stage, on behalf of my Naenae community centre associates I made it my personal business to keep in touch with developments; I had good reason from experience to fear that if matters were left to drift they would most probably drift into a backwater, and nothing whatever would be done a bout them. (As we shall see, such fears turned out to be amply justified.)
First of all, on making enquiries after several days from Mr Parry's secretary, I was informed that the Minister proposed after all to submit the Naenae scheme to Cabinet and that he had prepared a Cabinet Minute which if endorsed would satisfy our requirements. After the usual delays the matter apparently was carried to Cabinet but no action was taken - Mr Parry's Minute was not approved. I gathered that there was some discussion as to which Minister was rightly responsible for handling the Naenae community centre proposals, but that no conclusion was reached. (This was surely an extraordinary state of affairs. That same Cabinet eighteen months previously had formally authorised the setting up of the Lower Hutt Provisional Community Centre Committee for the purpose of preparing a community centre scheme for submission to the Government. And now, with that Committee's formal report before it, Cabinet was unable to agree as to which Minister should take charge of it.')

Cabinet Loses the Report

This particular Cabinet meeting not only did nothing about the Provisional Committee's Report; in the confusion they actually managed to lose the documents.' The Lower Hutt City Council's communication literally was lost - for a period of two weeks it could not be found. No one- not even the Secretary to Cabinet - seemed to know what had happened to it.
However it eventually turned up again. Now (Mr Parry's private secretary informed me) we would probably get a decision one way or the other very shortly. But no decision was forthcoming. Finally, on November 10th (almost two months after the meeting with Mr Parry) the Minister's secretary told me that Mr Parry had now firmly decided to recognise no responsibility in the matter and had handed on the City Council's communication to be dealt with by the Minister of Finance, Mr Nash. The Lower Hutt City Council would hear directly from Mr Nash when a decision had been reached.
Thus it was now necessary (how necessary, the sequel will show) for me to transfer my enquiries from Mr Parry's office to the office of Mr Nash, and, in view of Mr Nash's well-known propensity for receiving important communications and doing nothing about them for indefinite periods, to keep pressing for action. But at first I could get no definite information. All Mr Nash's secretary could tell me was that there were apparently some papers on the subject of the Naenae scheme on his Minister's desk; he could not say just what they were nor, of course, could he tell what Mr Nash was doing or proposed to do about them. I kept receiving the same answer to further enquiries.
Then at last, on November 24th, two weeks after the documents in the case had allegedly been forwarded to Mr Nash from Mr Parry's office, by chance I ran into Mr Nash himself as he was coming out of his room into his secretary's. He enquired casually how things were going, to which I had to reply that things were not going at all well. The Naenae community centre people were very concerned, I said, about the lack of any sign of Government action with regard to the Naenae proposals. They wanted to get going with the scheme
without delay and in particular to begin building up funds to meet initial costs; to that end they want to get Government approval and (if necessary) Parliamentary sanction for implementing the "special rating scheme" during the term of the present Parliament. (For otherwise there would be a holdup for a year.) But here we were at the end of the session and there was no visible progress to report.

Mr Nash Knows Nothing About Anything

"Well, why don't you write in about all this?" demanded Mr Nash. To put it mildly, I was somewhat taken aback by this query. I reminded him that the Lower Hutt City Council had already written to the Government more than two months previously, submitting the Naenae scheme for consideration, and that the Council's letter had been personally handed to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Parry, by the Mayor of Lower Hutt, Mr Hay. I also reminded him that the Council's letter had been referred to him (Mr Nash) for action two weeks ago.
"I know nothing about all this", said Mr Nash, Member of Parliament for Hutt.
Mr Nash went on to assert, indeed, that not only had he not seen the letter but he had never heard of it.' I said that I had been informed by Mr Parry's office that the letter had been discussed by Cabinet. Mr Nash knew nothing about that either, he said.
And with that he went about his business, after requesting his private secretary to look into the matter.
(All this may be difficult to credit, but I made notes at the times and can vouch for their accuracy and that of this transcription.)
I must now record a conclusion which is in keeping with the root of this series of events.
On hearing from Mr Nash that he knew nothing of any letter from the Lower Hutt City Council on community centre matters, I suggested to his secretary that he might examine his Minister's desk to ascertain what material on the Naenae proposals actually was there, and, if the letter in question were absent, that he make enquiries
in Mr Parry's office.
Two days later the secretary informed me that the letter was not, after all, on Mr Nash's desk. All that was there on the subject were the reports from the various State Departments concerned. He accordingly had asked Mr Parry's office to confirm whether or not the letter had been sent on, as claimed.
And just then, as we were speaking, a messenger arrived from Mr Parry's office with the letter.' It had been down there all the time.
Thus, two and a half months after the Naenae scheme had been formally submitted to the Government, the result of my enquiries was to show that no progress whatever had been made with its consideration by the Government. Indeed, had I not been assiduous in my enquiries, the Lower Hutt City Council's letter would probably have remained in a pigeon-hole in Mr Parry's office, forgotten and gathering dust, indefinitely.
It was now, of course, too late to expect any action to be taken before the end of the Session, a week later. Progress with the Naenae community centre was, in fact, to be arrested for twelve months.

Section B. January - May

One Might have thought that after the demonstration of official ineptness and Ministerial irresponsibility disclosed in the previous Section, Mr Nash would have taken pains to deal promptly with the Lower Hutt City Council's representations regarding the Naenae scheme - now that they had been put under his nose, as it were. But the continuing lack, in the New Year, of any sign that the scheme was being considered by the Government soon convinced the Naenae Community Centre Committee that determined pressure on the Member of Parliament for Hutt would be necessary, if the scheme were not to remain quietly pigeon-holed.
By the first week of February nothing had been heard from Mr
Nash, either by the Naenae Community Centre Committee or by the City Council. I therefore raised the matter at a meeting of the Committee (of which I was a member), suggesting that a letter be written to the Lower Hutt Town Clerk emphasising our concern at the delay. The letter which was agreed upon read, in part:
"My Committee is very seriously concerned with the apparent lack of progress with our Naenae Community Centre scheme. As you know, the favourable result of the Naenae petition was discussed by the City Council last June, and as a result the Council approved the scheme and resolved to put it to the Government for the necessary authorisation. . .
"It is not too much to say that this delay is seriously prejudicing the prospects of successful Community Centre development in Naenae. It is difficult for local interest and enthusiasm to survive months and months of silence regarding a scheme on which an enormous amount of community work was done and which we thought was so soundly drawn and clearly desirable that a Governmental decision could be reached with very little delay. Specifically, it seems now that all hope of beginning the special rating and rental increase over the houses in the Naenae area has, as far as this year is concerned, vanished, so that financially the development of the Naenae Community Centre has been put back 12 months.
(signed) W. Mildenhall
Hon. Secretary,
Naenae Community Centre Committee
This letter was received by the City Council at its meeting on 14th February 1949. According to the report in the Hutt News, when the letter came up for discussion "the Deputy-Mayor, Mr W. C. Gregory, moved that a copy of it be sent to the Right Hon. W. Nash, M. P. for Hutt, together with a request for an explanation of the delay in dealing with the proposal, as it was a matter of urgency. The motion was carried unanimously by the Council."
Mr Nash apparently lost no time in answering this letter from the
City Council. In the Hutt News for 2nd March appeared this note: "At Monday's meeting of the Lower Hutt City Council a reply was received from the Right Hon. W. Nash, M. P. for Hutt, to the Council's request for an explanation of the Government's six months' silence regarding the Naenae Community Centre scheme, which had been person ally handed to Hon. W. Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, by the former Mayor, Mr E. P. Hay, on September 15. Mr Nash stated in his letter that he would bring the matter before the Government on his return from Auckland, early in March."
March came and went, and still no word from Mr Nash and his Government. On 6th April the Naenae Community Centre Committee sent a second letter to the City Council, which read, in part, as follows:
"We regret having once again to comment upon the lack of decision by the Government upon the Naenae Community Centre proposals. As a result of our previous letter to you, dated last February, we understand that Mr Nash, M. P. for Hutt, agreed to bring these proposals before the Government upon his return from his recent trip to Auckland. Mr Nash has now been back in Wellington four weeks, and we still hear nothing from him. It is now nearly seven months since the Naenae scheme was personally communicated to Hon. W. Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, by the then Mayor of Lower Hutt, Mr E. P. Hay. . ."
The letter went on to comment upon the fact that the Government had recently decided to grant the sum of £33,000 to the Methodist Church to assist with the erection in Naenae of an old people's home. The Committee emphasised its sympathy with that project, but suggested that "the value of our proposed Community Centre is certainly not less than that of the Eventide Home and merits, therefore, treatment from the Government at least as generous, sympathetic, and prompt."
When this letter was discussed by the City Council, the Council decided to make renewed representations to Mr Nash for a decision on the Naenae scheme.
April passed with not a sign from Mr Nash or the Government. Eventually, on 4th May, the Naenae Committee resolved to communicate directly with the Member for Hutt.
The letter that was sent him reiterated the Committee's disquiet at the continuing lack of decision by the Government, reviewed the interchange of correspondence between the Committee and the City Council and the Minister, and pointed out that "the prospects of successfully deweloping the Naenae scheme are being seriously prejudiced by these long delays." The letter concluded by requesting Mr Nash to use his influence as Member of Parliament for Hutt "to move the Government to action."
This correspondence, all of which had been well publicised in the Hutt News, finally had effect, for on 23rd May the Lower Hutt City Council received a letter from Mr Nash in which on behalf of the Government he offered a subsidy of up to £30,000 for the Naenae scheme, and undertook to facilitate the passing of whatever legislation might be necessary to give effect to the proposals for special rating, community centre administration, etc.
Now at long last the community centre organisers felt themselves rewarded for their labours, however reluctantly and tardily the reward had been proffered. For it was clear as day that pressure, and pressure alone, had caused Mr Nash to bestir himself to obtain a favourable Governmental decision on the Naenae proposals.
Indeed, the leaders of the Naenae Community Centre Committee were on all the evidence convinced that, had they been content to let things drift and had refrained from urging action upon both the City Council and upon Mr Nash himself, there would have been no decision by the Government on the Naenae scheme before the general elections, a few months hence. And, knowing what had happened to the health centre scheme (which had had even greater popular support), they had become cynical and disillusioned enough to believe that once the elections were over the Labour Government (had they been returned to power) would have meted out similar treatment to the community centre scheme - would have allowed it to die.
But as things were the Member for Hutt could not escape seeing that the Naenae Community Centre Committee were in no mood for indefinite Government evasion and were determined to seize the opportunity presented by the elections to press for an answer. Had Mr Nash's reply been further delayed, I can say that the Committee would have stepped up its pressure, and if necessary have made a local election issue of the matter for the Member for Hutt.
And that, wisely enough, Mr Nash was cautious to avoid.

Section C. June - January
City Council Reaffirms Validity of Petition

When the Government's approval of the Naenae community centre scheme was received by the Lower Hutt City Council, in May 1949, one of the councillors - Mr J. E. F. Vogel - gave notice of motion that he would seek to have the scheme referred back to the people of Naenae for another vote, on the grounds (he claimed) that the petition signed twelve months previously had not been a true and valid expression of opinion. When Councillor Vogel's motion came up for discussion it secured no support from fellow-councillors and was defeated. It was pointed out that the petition had been thoroughly discussed Broth by the Provisional Committee and by the City Council at the time of its presentation, and had then been accepted by both bodies as a genuine vote by the Naenae residents amply justifying proceeding with the community centre scheme and levying the proposed annual fee on the local householders.
With this last obstacle disposed of the City Council proceeded to set up a new community centre committee, to take the place of the Provisional Committee which with the presentation of its Report had come to the end of its functions. The new committee was constituted in accordance with the recommendations of that Report, except that instead of two councillor members the City Council decided upon three. The full membership was: Mr W. C. Gregory (Mayor of Lower Hutt, Chairman); Councillors F. Lonsdale, E. J. B. Matthews, and T. J. Young (representing the Council); Mr N. T. Haig (Chairman, Naenae Community Centre Committee) and Mr W. Mildenhall (Hon.
Secretary of the Naenae Committee). I was co-opted for advice and liaison with the Government.

Legislation Prepared

One of the first acts of the Lower Hutt City Council Community Centre Committee (as it was called) was to collaborate with the City Solicitors Mr N. T. Gillespie, in the preparation of a draft Bill. It had been, thought that the necessary legislation would have been brought down by the Government, but Mr Gillespie was now informed by the Local Government Officer of the Internal Affairs Department that there was not time enough for this procedure and that the Bill would have to be a Local Bill prepared by the Lower Hutt City Council and sponsored by the local Member.
The Bill as drafted was based generally upon the original Draft Act, but because of the reduced scope of the community centre proposals was simpler and shorter. The form of control set forth followed in principle that recommended in the Provisional Committee's Report. A section was devoted to authorising the raising of finance by the levying of a uniform annual fee, at a rate not to exceed one shilling a week, on all dwelling units in the community centre district. The drafting was completed in August, when the Bill was advertised for the legally required period and then conveyed to Mr Nash for sponsoring in the House of Representatives.
There seemed now no doubt that the Community Centre Bill would be passed by the end of the Session. It was confidently assumed, too, both by the new City Council Committee and by the Naenae Community Centre Committee that no further vote in the Naenae community would be required to validate the "shilling a week" household levy proposal. It was thought therefore that by the end of the year it should be practicable to make a start with collecting this fee, and thus to begin paying for various community centre equipment such as a priano, a film projector, and playground gear, to engage an architect for the plans for the permanent buildings, and so on.
In short, with the solution of the financial problem in sight it seemed that the Naenae Community Centre could in many important respects be made a going concern within a very short period.
This being so, the question of a Director for the Centre required
immediate consideration. The planners had from the beginning assumed that a Director would be provided by some Government agency - probably by the Education Department, in accordance with its existing policy and practice. I was requested by the City Council Committee to make preliminary enquiries in the matter.

Mr N. T. Haig

At this point I must explain that some of us had already in mind a person who we thought had most of the qualifications for becoming a good Director for the Naenae Centre. (And good community centre directors are few and far between.) This was Mr N. T. Haig, the Chairman of the Naenae Community Centre Committee. Mr Haig had come to Naenae as minister of the Naenae Church of Christ, a post he filled until June 1949. In May 1948 (at the time of the petition) he was elected Chairman of the Naenae Committee, and was one of those whose enthusiasm and energy were very usefully employed in the organising of the petition. As Chairman he was very active, efficient, and full of ideas. He conceived the idea of the Naenae Recreation Week, and helped to the full to make a success of those six days of community functions. Many other community centre activities owe their origin and development to him.
Mr Haig was a good mixer and well-known and well-liked by the residents of Naenae. His interests were broad and liberal, and he was a hard worker. He had a genuine enthusiasm for the community centre idea, and was full of optimism for the future of the movement in Naenae.
As a resident of Naenae he was already part of the community. Mrs Haig, too, was a keen community worker, and shared her husband's interests.
All in all, it was widely felt that it would be difficult indeed to find anyone better qualified to fill the role of Director of the pioneering Naenae Community Centre.
In June 1949 Mr Haig resigned from the ministry of the Church of Christ to become an adult education tutor-organiser, working under Mr Long in the Hutt Valley, and in Wellington. He assumed these new duties on the understanding that he would spend six months or
so in the Wellington Hutt Valley area and would then transfer to Napier. To those of us who were beginning to think of him as Naenae's first Community Centre Director, however, this presented no difficulty, as there was nothing to prevent him terminating his services with his new employers, the Regional Council for Adult Education. Indeed, there was reason to believe that the Council would regard kindly his taking up the directorship, if he wished to apply and were selected.
The only point that had to be watched was the timing of the appointment. Until alternative arrangements were definitely made Mr Haig had no choice but to contemplate and prepare for an early move to Napier. Clearly, if he were to be chosen as Director, the choice should be made before his transfer arrangements had progressed too far or before he had actually departed with his wife and family.
(Let me interpolate here with emphasis that Mr Haig had made no moves himself in these matters. It was thought likely, because of his interest in the Naenae scheme, that he would accept the directorship if the opportunity were offered. But the whole initiative was taken by others, and these others were animated solely by what they thought to be the best interests of the future Naenae Centre.)

I Make Enquiries Regarding the Directorship

Before beginning my enquiries I sought an opinion from the Mayor and each of the councillor members of the City Council Committee regarding Mr Haig and the directorship. (I was already familiar with local opinion in Naenae on the question.) They were all completely in accord in agreeing that Mr Haig would be the man for the job and that if he applied, his application would receive the support of the Committee.
As the Education Department, the Internal Affairs Department, and the Regional Council for Adult Education were all to some extent concerned with community centre development and had all assisted materially with the Naenae proposals, I discussed the question of the Naenae directorship with each of these. But both Mr A. S. Hely,
Director of the Regional Council, and Mr R. J. Bender, officer in charge of the Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch (Internal Affairs), agreed that it was a matter for the Education Department. As they pointed out, that Department had already supplied directors for the three or four community centres so far established in New Zealand and presumably would continue to do so as a matter of policy. They hastened to add that both the. Regional Council and the Physical Welfare Branch would continue to assist the development of the Naenae. Centre in every way within their powers.
The officer in the Education Department responsible for the appointing of community centre directors was Mr A. B. Thomson, Officer for Higher Education. Mr Thomson had been closely associated with the Lower Hutt community centre planning project from the very beginning. He had been his Department's nominee on the original Community Centre Committee, had been co-opted to the Provisional Committee, and had taken a full part in the work of those two bodies.
I reported to Mr Thomson the views of Mr Hely and Mr Bender, and invited his opinion on the question of directorship appointment. At first he was inclined to think that such an appointment should be delayed until more, progress had been made in Naenae, I pointed out, however, that in many ways Naenae already had a functioning community centre, although working under extreme difficulties of accommodation and direction. A temporary Community Hall was row in use, many organised activities were under way, and more could speedily be developed with the necessary professional leadership.
In particular, I said, the Naenae Community Centre Committee in association with the City Council Community Centre Committee were planning and organising a Community Playground for Naenae, which would be the first of its kind in New Zealand and an important experiment in its field; (see next chapter). One of the main tasks of a community centre director, in the early days of the Playground at least, would be to work towards placing that project solidly upon its feet. That would take much time, thought, planning, and action.
At first Mr Thomson questioned the legitimacy of Playground
organising as part of the duties of a community centre director. He seemed to feel that such an official should concern himself principally if not wholly with purely "adult education" activities. I replied that the Naenae Community Centre (as of course Mr Thomson knew from his association with the project) had been planned as an "all-purpose" one, catering fully for the social and recreational as well as the educational and cultural needs of the community, and that its director would be responsible for the success of each of these purposes. His job therefore would be to promote the Centre as a whole, and not to confine his efforts to any one particular part of it.
My arguments seemed to convince Mr Thomson, because he finally agreed to support an application from the City Council Committee for the appointment of a Naenae Director. I remarked that the feeling in Naenae and in the City Council Committee was strongly in favour of the appointment of Mr Haig. Mr Thomson said that of course the post would have to be advertised, but that in such a matter the views and wishes of the local people and local authorities would have great weight with the selection committee. When I explained that as far as Mr Haig was concerned an early decision was essential because of the current plans for his transfer to Napier, Mr Thomson replied that once a formal application from the City Council Committee had been received the whole matter should be settled within six weeks or so. Pending receipt of the application he would make certain preliminary arrangements.

Application to Minister of Education for Appointment of Director

By the end of September I was able to report the result of my interviews with Mr Hely, Mr Bender, and Mr Thomson to the City Council Community Centre Committee. I was thereupon requested to draft immediately an application to the Minister of Education for the appointment of a Naenae Community Centre Director. In the letter I prepared (addressed to Hon. T. H. McCombs, Minister of Education, with copies for Dr C. E. Beeby, Director of Education and Mr A. B. Thomson, Officer for Higher Education) I briefly outlined the structure and authority of the City Council Committee. I then proceeded to summarise what had been and was then being done
in Naenae in the development and expansion of typically "community centre" activities. I was able to list the following:
A temporary Community Hall (a Nisson hut) had been built and opened for community centre and general community use,
A Community Playground had been planned and would shortly be opened,
A Nursery Play Centre would be opened within a month,
An Arts Group, a World Affairs Group, and a Child Psychology Class met regularly.
A Naenae Theatre Group and a Naenae Music Society had been sponsored by the Naenae Community Centre Committee,
Periodic social evenings were held in the Community Hall and elsewhere, sponsored by the Naenae Committee and assisted by officers of the Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch, Internal Affairs Department.
"All the facilities mentioned above (I wrote) have been planned and developed, or sponsored, by the Naenae Community Centre, and the activities described are operated by the Centre or under its auspices.
"Thus already, it is evident, a good start has been made under the very limiting physical conditions at present obtaining to provide services of a broad 'social, recreational, and cultural' character for the whole population of Naenae."
The letter concluded with the following:

The Pressing Need for a Director

"To maintain these facilities and services; to develop further short-range projects; and to pursue with vigour the detailed planning of the long-range Naenae Community Centre project and building programme: to continue, in a word, the task of building a community in this new and raw State Housing settlement, the services of a full-time Director are urgently needed. Only by exceptional exertions and working at high pressure has the Naenae Community Centre succeeded in doing what it has already done; it is clear that with the present largely volunteer resources alone the pace cannot be maintained.
"We submit, then, that the time has come for the appointment of a full-time Director for the Naenae Community Centre. That such an appointment is urgent and essential is the considered opinion both of this Committee and of the closely associated Naenae Community Centre Committee. Furthermore, we have consulted recognised authorities in the field and from them have had our opinion amply endorsed. . .
"In conclusion, may we quote from "Further Education for Adults", the Report of a Consultative Committee set up by request of your predecessor in office, Hon. H. G. R. Mason. On page 92 we read:". . .there should be established a limited number of well-staffed experimental centres. (Four or five might be established at once.) The function of these centres would be to act as a stimulus to development in other places and as a testing-ground for community centre theory."
"This developing Naenae Community Centre could become, admirably, such an experimental centre. Already, in the important field of finance, we have set a pattern which has been
adopted by the Government as official policy. In other respects, too, this Naenae Centre is Number One of its kind. Its encouragement by all practical means will be richly rewarded.
"The Education Department can assist by providing a Director. We trust that this application will receive your earnest consideration."
Hitherto, in the period since the City Council's receipt of the Government's approval of the Naenae scheme, there had been little to complain of in the course of developments. Now, however, there began a series of unexpected difficulties and setbacks. The first of these was when -

Mr Nash Holds Up the Application

Upon completion of the draft application I discussed it with the Committee Chairman, Mr Gregory. He approved it, and suggested that the application - addressed to the Minister of Education, Hon. Mr McCombs - should as a courtesy be transmitted through the local Member, Mr Nash. I strongly advised against this, saying it would simply invite delay because of Mr Nash's well-known tardiness in dealing with correspondence. But Mr Gregory was sure that there would be no delay in this case, as all Mr Nash had to do was forward the correspondence to his colleague. A letter accordingly was written to Mr Nash, enclosing the application and requesting him to pass it on to Mr McCombs.
On 6th October 1949 I personally handed the correspondence to Mr Nash's private secretary, with a request that it be brought to the Minister's notice.
My fears were now shown to have been justified. There was delay, after all. To be on the safe side, in a few days time I enquired from Mr McCombs' secretary whether the application had been forwarded to his office; it had not. It was still on Mr Nash's desk. And of course this holdup was a serious matter, for the reasons I have already given.
What caused this holdup? The explanation which came to light was an extraordinary one. It seems that for some inexplicable reason Mr Nash had got the idea into his head that the directorship application was being made on behalf of myself.' And as he didn't think I had the qualifications for the post he was refraining from
passing on the application to Mr McCombs.' (It was quite obvious that. Mr Nash had not taken the trouble to read the letter of application, or he could never have fallen into such an error.)
The fact of the matter, of course, was that I and every one of my associates were agreed that Mr Haig was the man we wanted for Director. At no time bad it entered my mind to seek the post for myself; I had no intention whatsoever of so doing.
Knowledge of Mr Nash's misunderstanding and of his consequent decision to delay transmission of the application came to light during an interview with Mr R. S. V. Simpson (referred to in Chapter 9). Fortunately, Mr Simpson was able at once and quite easily to disabuse Mr Nash's mind of his error. Apparently Mr Nash admitted that he had come to an unjust and hasty conclusion. Anyway, he now took steps to have the application forwarded to its rightful recipient, Mr McCombs, who in turn lost no time in referring it to Mr Thomson for action.

The Community Centre Bill is Passed, but with Important Alteration

Just about this time the Lower Hutt Empowering (Community Centres) Bill was introduced by its sponsor, Mr Nash, in the House of Representatives and referred to the Local Bills Committee. This Committee heard the views of the State Departments concerned. And now, without warning and at this last hour, the Internal Affairs Department recommended that provision be inserted in the Bill for the holding of another poll of electors, in the manner prescribed by the Local Elections and Polls Act, 1925, before the proposed annual fee could be levied. That is to say, the Internal Affairs Department desired that the Naenae community centre petition be disregarded and that a further vote be necessary before the Naenae scheme could be proceeded with.
This was indeed a bombshell.' Everyone concerned (as I have already stated) had been confident that the petition would be recognised as a sufficient authority for validating the annual fee proposal. The Naenae Community Centre Committee, the Lower Hutt City Council Community Centre Committee, and the City Council itself were all happy about it. Mr Skinner had signified, by implication, that the petition was acceptable to the Government as a valid
expression of opinion, and spokesmen of the Internal Affairs Department itself had conveyed the same opinion. Yet now, at the eleventh hour and without explanation, we had that same Department recommending the contrary.
The recommendation was of course accepted by the Local Bills Committee and written into the Bill. The Bill in its amended form was passed on 18th October 1949.
(As we shall see in Section D of this chapter, this amendment caused the Naenae scheme to be set back for a further twelve months.)

Mr Thomson Changes His Mind About the Directorship Appointment

In addition to giving the Naenae scheme a serious setback in point of time, the insertion of the provision requiring a further vote in Naenae had another important consequence.
As soon as Mr Thomson heard about this provision, he withdrew his support for the appointment of a Naenae Community Centre Director. He held that the whole question of a community centre for Naenae was again in the air, and that until the poll as required by the Act should be held and won there was no justification for the appointment of a director by the Education Department.
Mr Thomson's withdrawal of support for the directorship appointment was viewed in a most grave light by the community centre committees. It was argued that if another poll had to be held, that fact provided all the more reason for the presence on the job of someone with the time and authority not only to ensure the maintenance of existing activities but to assist with the publicity and spread of information essential before the poll was held. Since the signing of the petition, in May 1948, the Naenae community had grown from about 1000 homes to more than 1500; the newcomers would have to be told the community centre story and the story retold to the old residents. This would be a task comparable in magnitude to that undertaken by the Provisional Committee as preparation for the 1948 community centre poll.
And apart from all that, the withdrawal from community work of a key person such as Mr Haig at this crucial stage in the evolution of the Naenae community centre proposals would have a most disrupting effect upon the morale of the community centre organisers.
That morale was already being seriously tested by the unexpected "further vote" requirement; what was now essential was not dispersion but consolidation of forces.

A Solution Seems - But Only For a Time - To Be Found

Mr A. G. Long, who had played a big part in the community centre movement in Naenae, like everyone else was much concerned at the way things were going. He hastened to discuss the local point of view with both Mr Hely (who as Director of the Regional Council for Adult Education was his superior officer) and with Mr Thomson. (I myself by this time was able to do very little, because of the difficulties of my own position - see Chapter 9). From their discussions the following plan emerged:-
It was agreed that while, at this stage, the appointment of a permanent director for the Naenae Community Centre would not be justified, there was nevertheless warrant for a temporary appointment for the period until the holding of the poll, sometime during the following year. (The position could then be reviewed in the light of the voting results.) Mr Hely accordingly offered to release Mr Haig from his present duties and to authorise him to become acting-director of the Naenae Centre for that period, and (as the Regional Council itself had no funds which it could use for the purpose) Mr Thomson offered to arrange a grant to the Council from the Education Department for the payment of the acting-director's salary.
This seemed to be an eminently sensible and satisfactory arrangement, a neat compromise between the appointment of a permanent director and no appointment at all. It was understood that the proposal would be confirmed in time for a statement to be made at the next meeting of the Regional Council, in November.
According to the original suggestion, the Education Department was to take the initiative and offer the grant to the Council. At the November meeting, however, Mr Hely had to state that Mr Thomson now felt it to be more fitting that the Regional Council should make the first move, by approaching the Education Department with a request for a grant. The Council agreed to this, and decided to make the necessary application to Mr Thomson.

Mr Thomson Again Changes His Mind

But once again Mr Thomson changed his mind. At the next meeting, in December, of the Regional Council it was revealed that despite his earlier agreement Mr Thomson had now withdrawn his support from the making of a Departmental grant. There would thus be no funds available for the payment of Mr Haig's salary as acting-director. There was nothing for it therefore but for the Regional Council to revert to the original plans for Mr Haig's future - his transfer to Napier. Accordingly he was instructed to make his arrangements for the move, early in the New Year.
A day or so later, at the December meeting of the Naenae Community Centre Committee, Mr Haig tendered his resignation from the chairmanship and from the Committee on the grounds of his imminent departure from the district.
This news, needless to say, disconcerted the Committee. The continued assistance of their Chairman seemed to them to be vital to the success of the community centre development and in particular of the poll now required by law. I at once moved that Mr Haig be urged to withhold his resignation for the time being, and that a determined effort be made to see what could be done about the position. I suggested that things having come to such a pass, the Committee's difficulties should be referred to the local Member of Parliament, Mr Nash. This motion was carried unanimously and enthusiastically, and Mr Haig agreed to its terms. He pointed out, however, that any action with reference to himself would have to be taken quickly, as he was due to leave the district very soon and was already making arrangements for packing up his furniture and vacating his house.

Mr Haig Departs

When the matter was referred to Mr Nash he said that he would do what he could. But when the scheduled time for Mr Haig's move arrived, the position was still unaltered, so Mr Haig had no alternative but to pack up and, with his wife and family, depart.
That seemed to be the end of that. Mr Nash however apparently kept on the job, for in January Mr Haig received a request to fly
from Christchurch (where he was spending his annual holidays) to Wellington for a conference with Dr Beeby, Mr Thomson, Mr Gregory, and Mr Nash.
I gather that at this conference a number of alternative proposals were examined. It was first suggested that Mr Haig should take up as arranged his Napier appointment but should spend his next annual leave in Naenae assisting with a community centre poll campaign. (Readers may supply their own comment upon this.) Other suggestions were that he might be appointed by the Education Department to an acting-directorship in Naenae for (a) twelve months, or (b) five or six months. With these latter two proposals, however, it was made clear by Dr Beeby that the approval of the Minister of Education would be necessary, and that this approval would have to be sought either by the local Member, Mr Nash, or by the local authority, the Lower Hutt City Council.
At this stage Mr Nash indicated that he would not be prepared to approach the Minister of Education on the subject. Mr Gregory, on the other hand, said that he would be willing to do so on behalf of the Lower Hutt City Council.
I learned all this at second or third hand and cannot vouch for accuracy. Whatever propositions were made, however, Mr Haig was unable at this late hour to see his way clear to accept. It is my own view that by this time he had become thoroughly disgusted with the unfriendly and unhelpful way in which the community centre scheme in Naenae had been treated of late, both Ministerially and Departmentally; had become 'browned off', as they say; and found that he had no heart to recommence the struggle. And I must say that I don't blame him.

Section D. Conclusions

This section will include some remarks on -
The outstanding achievements of the Hutt Valley community centre planners,
The problem of community leadership,
The present position of the Naenae community centre project.

The Outstanding Achievements of the Lower Hutt
Community Centre Planners

In certain respects the Lower Hutt community centre planners blazed new trails in New Zealand. They did this not only by virtue of the distinctive features of the community centre plan they evolved, but, also, by the success they achieved in securing popular support for the plan by majority vote in one particular community.
Let us first examine the plan's distinctive features.


The plan calls for loan financing of one-half the capital costs.
Hitherto, in this country, there has been an irrational feeling that money for community centres should be raised by means other than loan; by subscriptions, gifts, raffles, bring-and-buys, and the like.
The Lower Hutt planners argued that such methods are laboriously inefficient and time wasteful; incapable of achieving their objective in a reasonable time if the capital needs are great; and unfair in the distribution of the capital burden.
They argued, on the other hand, that loan money can be raised quickly and without a frittering away of energy which could be better used for other purposes, and that with loan money, repayment being spread over many years, all those using the centre over those years may share fairly the financial burden of capital costs.
The plan calls for a £ for £ State subsidy on the loan money raised for capital development.
The planners maintained that an all-purpose community
centre designed to cater for the educational and cultural needs of the community as well as the social and recreational needs, has a fair claim upon State financial assistance. They insisted that such a centre fills an essential place in a civilised community. In particular, in the cultural and educational field it supplements and consolidates the work of the schools, on which large sums are spent, by extending the educational process throughout adult life.
They approved the policy formulated in 1946 by the Labour Government regarding £ for £ State subsidies for community centres, so far as it went: (see circular letter sent by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. W. E. Parry, to local bodies on 22nd October, 1946). They felt strongly, however, that limiting the basis of such subsidies to "moneys raised by direct contribution" was irrational, and that the basis should be liberalised to include loan moneys.
The plan calls for the servicing of the capital loan, and for the meeting of a substantial part of the annual running expenses of the centre, from the proceeds of a special rate or uniform annual fee levied over all homes in the community centre area, this fee in the case of State houses to be collected by the State Advances Corporation as an increment on the State rentals.
Such a businesslike way of raising annual community centre finance (a) makes the raising of the capital loan practicable by providing a guarantee of repayment, (b) relieves the community centre administrators from continual preoccupation with money problems, and (c) spreads the financial burden of community centre maintenance equitably over the whole community.
Community centres, it was argued, are as important as drains, and should be financed in the same businesslike manner.
(It is worthy of note that as a result of the pioneering work of the Lower Hutt community centre planners the late Labour Government liberalised its attitude to the needs of community centre
finance by (a) extending the basis for £ for & State subsidies so as to make loan money subsidisable, and (b) recognising and giving legal sanction to the "special rating" or uniform annual fee scheme for annual community centre finance (see Lower Hutt City Empowering (Community Centres) Act, 1949.)

Architectural and Functional

For the first time in New Zealand, the Hutt Valley community centre planners (a) set about planning "all-purpose" community centres, whose architectural pattern would permit the inclusion of the widest range of social, recreational, educational, and cultural services, for both sexes and for young and old, and (b) in fact produced layout plans upon this pattern.

Organisational and Administrative

I quote the following from "A Community Centre For You":
"In the organisation and control of Community Centres there are two fundamental principles to be observed. The first is the principle of local control of the activities of the Centres; the second, that of stability and continuity in the body bearing the ultimate financial responsibility.
"With these two principles in view the Provisional Committee recommends that a properly constituted statutory Board should be established to control the property, finance, and broad policy of all the Centres, and that each Community Centre should have its own management committee elected locally. The Board constituted by Statute would give stability and continuity, and the local committees would give democratic local control of all activities."
And finally let us recall what success the planners had in securing popular support for their proposals.
The story has already been fully told in these pages. Although, for various reasons, the plan on submission to the electors of the entire proposed community centre area was narrowly defeated, when a local plan based on the same principles was put to the people of
one particular area - namely, Naenae - by way of a petition, those people by a two-thirds majority voted in favour of it.
This, on any reckoning, was a notable achievement.

The Problem of Community Leadership

The withdrawal of two key leaders from the Naenae community centre scene - namely, Mr N. T. Haig and myself - provides an occasion for a discussion of community leadership.
It is sometimes said that: no one person is indispensable; that, for example, if a particular individual becomes no longer available to assist with some community activity or other, some one else will always come forward or can be found to take his place.
This is doubtless true for well-established, conventional activities, such as the running of football clubs, women's institutes, and the like. But it definitely is not true when the beaten path is left and large-scale, ambitious, and novel enterprises are proposed and embarked upon. In such cases leaders with rare combinations of qualities are needed; if such leaders are found and then lost, it may be very difficult - at times impossible - to replace them.
An example of such a large-scale, ambitious, and novel enterprise was the Lower Hutt community centre scheme. Nothing like it had been attempted before in New Zealand and brought to such an advanced stage. Its successful development required exceptional leadership, exhibiting boldness and imagination as well as capacity for continuous and hard work.
Now the members of the average New Zealand community may be divided into three classes:
Those who, while open to conviction that a certain proposed pioneering community project might turn out to be a good thing, are either too busy with other activities, too indifferent, too lacking in imaginative perception, or too little imbued with public, spirit to take any active or systematic part in its advancement. This class comprises the great majority.
Those who become quickly seized with the value of the project
either for themselves, their families, or the community as a whole, and are willing to give whatever assistance they can but who, because of limited time, ability, initiative, and so on can be relied upon to be useful only in subordinate capacities, where however they will perform worthwhile tasks under the stimulus of leadership and example.
This class is very much smaller than the first class. It might be called the class of potentially useful lieutenants.
Those exceptional individuals to whom the project makes such an instant and tremendous appeal that they are prepared to sacrifice time and energy (and sometimes resources and health) in unlimited quantities to ensure its success, and who, moreover, are able to inspire others - the "lieutenants" - to contribute what assistance lies within their powers. These are the true leaders, without whose services pioneering projects of great dimensions cannot be successfully developed. They must have such qualities as -
An imaginative grasp of the potentialities of the project,
Organising ability,
Tenacity of purpose,
A highly developed sense of public spirit,
A thick skin against rebuffs and discouragements, and so on.
Persons of this type are very rare. Yet it is on this type of person that community progress must depend.
It is necessary to emphasise that to develop successfully an ambitious, pioneering community project at least one such leader is essential. Moreover, because of the scarcity of the type, if for some reason or other he is withdrawn from service, then there may be literally no one left in that community with the capacity to fill the vacant role. Then, despite the fact that the potentially useful lieutenants are still there waiting for direction and inspiration and the fact that the great mass of the population may remain potential supporters of the project once its value has been demonstrated to them in convincing fashion: I say despite these facts
the project, flops - for lack of top leadership.
In other words, community progress depends - and depends necessarily - upon the activity of a very small number of exceptional individuals. And the moral is that such individuals should be prized and encouraged, not the reverse.
All this would seem to be elementary and obvious. But that it is not elementary and obvious to the minds of certain politicians and senior Government officials, is amply demonstrated, I think, in these and succeeding pages.

The Present Position of the Naenae Community Centre Project

The effective leaders of the Naenae community centre project were latterly Mr N. T. Haig, Mr A. G. Long, and the present writer. We had behind us, in the members of the original Naenae Community Centre Committee, a capable group of what I have called "lieutenants", but we three were the leaders.
I have already narrated how, by the end of the year 1949, Mr Haig became no longer available for service with the community centre movement in Naenae. In the next chapter I shall describe how I myself was withdrawn from the field. Mr Long, too, found himself eliminated. Thus, the beginning of 1950 found us all gone. No leaders of the type required appeared to take our places. Thus the inevitable - the decline and almost certain ultimate collapse of the Naenae community centre project - ensued.

A new committee

Responsibility for the future of the project now fell into the hands of a group of persons resident in Naenae none of whom had any link with or substantial knowledge of what had been planned and accomplished over the previous four years. It soon became evident, too, that none of this group had any imaginative grasp of the aims and objects of the original planners or of the community centre idea. Some of them in fact are said to wish to scrap the original scheme and building programme altogether, and to content themselves
and the community with a "hall". (In this reactionary outlook they are said to be supported by the Mayor, Mr Gregory, and by Councillor Matthews, two members of the Lower Hutt City Council Community Centre Committee.)
This group, too, since they assumed control of community centre interests last March, have done nothing to maintain the programme of community activities initiated and developed by the original Naenae Community Centre Committee presided over by Mr Haig. They represent indeed a complete and total break with the tradition of the past.

National Government alters community centre subsidy policy

Late in March the new National Government announced a change in State policy regarding the subsidising of community centres. As this change of policy intimately affected the Naenae scheme, I confidently awaited some public comment on it by Mr Nash, Member of Parliament for Hutt, Mr Gregory, Mayor of Lower Hutt, or the newly reconstituted Naenae Community Centre Committee. No such comment being forthcoming, after a month's wait I addressed the following letter to the Hutt News, which was published in the edition of 26th April 1950.
The Editor,
The Hutt News.
On March 24 the following announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Holland) was reported in the daily press: "The present policy of paying £ for £ on money raised by direct contribution for war memorials and community centres is to be continued by the Government, but no subsidy will be paid on loan money for this purpose." Because of the importance of this announcement, not only for Lower Hutt but for the whole of New Zealand, I should have thought that the M.P. for Hutt (Mr Nash), the M P. for Onslow (Mr Combs), or some other official Labour spokesman, would have commented upon it. But as they have not done so permit me to fill the gap.
When Mr Holland's Government assumed office the existing policy for State assistance to community centres included provision for £ for £ subsidies on loan money as well, as money 'raised by direct contribution'. It is true that, according to the Labour Government's original statement of policy (contained in a letter from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Parry, dated October 22nd, 1946, and addressed to local bodies) community centre subsidies were to be restricted to money 'raised by direct contribution'. Last year, however, the Labour Government announced that this restriction would no longer apply and that the subsidy offer would be extended to cover loan money, on the same £ for £ basis. (I may remark that this liberalising of policy was a direct
consequence of the work and proposals of myself and fellow-members of the Lower Hutt community centre planning organisation.
Interest in Lower Hutt
Citizens of Lower Hutt will note with interest that the first statement of the Labour Government's new financial policy for community centres was made by Mr Nash to a public gathering of Naenae residents at the Wind-up Social of the Naenae Recreation Week, on May 21st, 1949. Mr Nash took that opportunity of announcing his Government's decision to subsidise the Naenae Community Centre £60,000 building programme to the extent of £50,000, the remaining £30,000 to be raised by the Lower Hutt City Council by loan. But, Mr Nash hastened to add, his Government could not give Naenae special treatment; it had decided accordingly to offer similar loan money subsidies to all other communities as well.
Three weeks later, in an address to the New Zealand Council of Sport, Mr Parry referred to his Government's new community centre financial policy, but the newspaper account of his remarks which appeared on June 16th made no explicit reference to the question of loan money subsidising. However, this point was authoritatively cleared up during the debate on the Lower Hutt City Empowering (Community Centres) Bill in the House of Representatives on October 18. After referring to Mr Parry's June statement, Mr Nash, the sponsor of the Bill, said that "any local authority deciding to promote a community centre scheme providing for facilities for physical, educational, welfare, and recreational activities can get a £ for £ suhsidy. . ." He then proceeded to affirm in definite terms (as an examination of Hansard will show) that such subsidies would be payable on loan money, as in the case of the Naenae scheme.
Has Policy Been Reversed?
It now appears, from Mr Holland's announcement, that the present Government has decided to reverse this loan money subsidising policy and to revert to the Labour Government's original and since superseded policy of restricting community centre subsidies to money 'raised by direct contribution'. Many will regard this as a most regrettable putting tack of the clock, calculated seriously to hamper the growth of the community centre movement.
Apart from the general implications of this decision, what of its effect in Lower Hutt? Will Mr Holland's Government honour Mr Nash's offer of a £30,000 loan money subsidy to Naenae? And, if so, what will be the position of Epuni or Taita (State housing settlements similar to Naenae which were invelved in the original community centre proposals) should they at any time in the future follow Naenae's lead and plan to establish community centres for themselves?
Despite the obvious importance of the facts publicised and discussed in this letter, they excited no comment in the columns of the Hutt News from any of the interested parties. Indeed, the first reference to the issues involved was a brief note in that newspaper four months later (30th August 1950) to the effect that "the Mayor, Mr W. C. Gregory, reported to the Lower Hutt City Council on Monday night that a meeting of the (City Council) Community Centre Committee was held recently. Arrangements were made for a
deputation from the committee to wait upon the Minister (of Internal Affairs)".
The purpose of this deputation, it seemed, was to attempt to ascertain - in the light of the Government's new community centre subsidising policy - just where Naenae now stood with regard to the £30,000 community centre subsidy promised by the late Labour Government, Since I drew public attention to the reed for securing clarity on the point, this represented the total progress which had been made by the new committees to achieve that clarity in the intervening four months.
The uncertainty still persists. At the present moment (late October) those responsible for Naenae community centre matters have not yet ascertained whether the subsidy promise made by the previous Government will be honoured.

A community centre poll in Naenae?

As early as last February a tentative decision was made to hold a poll of electors on the Naenae community centre scheme, simultaneously with the local bodies elections the following (this) November. This decision apparently still stands, but to all intents and purposes no preparatory publicity or propaganda for the scheme has been issued up to now (late October) by either the Lower Hutt City Council Community Centre Committee or by the new Naenae Committee, nor is there any sign that such will be issued, although the poll is less than a month off.
The excuse which is being made for this inaction - i.e., uncertainty with regard to the subsidy - is of course totally inadequate. In the absence of any effort to re-arouse local interest in the community centre scheme and to inform Naenae residents of the issues on which they will be asked to vote, the poll is almost certainly doomed to defeat. Since the last vote and systematic publicity on the question, two and a half years ago, the population of Naenae has grown from about 1000 homes to about 1,750. It will be very surprising indeed if these hundreds of newcomers will say yes to a proposal involving weekly payments of up to a shilling per household, in the absence of any prior attempt to tell them what it is all about.
It is not too much to say that in contemplating a poll on the Naenae community centre question without a preliminary campaign of explanation and propaganda and thereby courting what will probably amount to final oblivion for the scheme, the responsible bodies - the Lower Hutt City Council Community Centre Committee and the new Naenae Committee - are acting in a most irresponsible manner.
The present position of the Naenae community centre scheme, therefore, is precarious. It seems almost certain that the efforts of those pioneers who since early 1946 had given devoted service to the community centre idea have been expended in vain, and that the exciting and splendid scheme they evolved is doomed to extinction. This sorry fate of a great conception is a tragedy. Its causes I have traced in this statement. Those sharing responsibility have much to answer for.

Stop Press

To complete the record, I add the following which has just appeared in the Wellington Evening Post - 26th October, 1950:
Naenae Subsidy Up To £30,000
In reply to a recent deputation to the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Lower Hutt City Council has been advised that Cabinet has approved the payment of a subsidy of up to £30,000 under the original conditions for the proposed erection of a community centre at Naenae.
The next step will be the taking of a poll in the area, yet to be defined, to ascertain if the residents desire a community centre and, if so, whether they will pledge the payment of up to 1/- a week (each householder) to maintain the centre and pay off a loan of whatever amount the City Council may raise for the purpose.
It will not be possible, owing to the time required for the formalities, for the poll to be taken at the forthcoming municipal elections.
I shall not pause to comment upon this, nor do I feel it necessary to amend anything I have already written.

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