The first new council-owned community facility to open in the Waitākere Ranges for over a decade has officially been handed over to its tenants, thanks to a piece of foresight from the board half a decade ago.
The Piha Wetland was purchased by the council from the Ministry of Education in 2017, following a request from Waitākere Ranges Local Board for the land to be purchased and used as a park the previous year. The old schoolhouse building that was on the land was also retained and has now been refurbished to operate as a community facility to hire.
A two-year lease has been granted to the West Coast Gallery to administer the building, while a Trust has been established with four local community groups who came together to develop the asset for the Piha community and help restore the wetland in partnership with the council.
Waitākere Ranges Local Board Chair Saffron Toms says being able to open a facility for community use is a rare privilege these days.
“With this privilege comes responsibility, and on behalf of Waitākere Ranges Local Board, I acknowledge the strength and commitment of the Piha community and the community groups who’ve worked together to make this happen.
“The project hasn’t been without setbacks. Both the flooding of the area in 2017 and more recently COVID-19 has delayed this process but I’m really proud that we have been able to play a role in making sure that this is a facility that the community can utilise, and it’s great to see that bookings are already coming in to make the most of the building,” she says.
While the building lease has been agreed, the wetland that the building sits on has recently been the focus of a plan to help restore its ecology, with the Piha Wetland Service Outcomes Plan adopted by the board in late 2020.
Waitākere Ranges Local Board member Sandra Coney says restoration of the area is an important goal.
“Even today, the walk around the wetland is proving popular as a place for locals to enjoy some quiet, walk the dog, and take in some beautiful views of the area.
“The Piha Wetland is a great opportunity for local groups to work together on a project with multiple outcomes, environmental, cultural, recreational, educational and community building. It will provide an opportunity for local children to start caring for the beautiful place they live in and become kaitiaki of the future,” she says.