Hutt at Heart
Walter Nash Centre in Taita
The Walter Nash Centre in Taita

Integrated facilities meet the needs of today’s Lower Hutt residents

Every day hundreds of people flow through Lower Hutt’s popular community hubs, whether it’s for sport and recreation, library services, art and music programmes, access to computers and the internet or just to catch up with what’s going on in the community.

The Walter Nash Centre and Koraunui Stokes Valley hubs have quickly become the centre of their busy and diverse communities.

Since opening in October 2015, almost three million people have been through the ‘Nash’ and one thousand new members have joined Taita Library which is part of the hub. The Koraunui Stokes Valley Hub, which opened in October 2017, has had 250,000 people through the doors and 600 new library members.

For both, the attendance is double the number of people who used the community facilities the hubs have replaced. And both the attendance rates, and the range of activities on offer, are  continuing to grow.

For Hutt City Council, the numbers are validation of the decision to have integrated facilities as part of its strategy for the city.

“Through these hubs we’re able to provide a better range of services to the community from one central location, but on top of that, they become the heartbeat of the community, which is exactly what’s happened in Taita and Stokes Valley,” Matt Reid, General Manager, City and Community Services said.

“It’s fantastic to see the hubs having such a positive impact on their communities, especially our tamariki. They take great pride in these excellent facilities and there’s a real sense of local  ownership. We’re starting to see that with the new RICOH Sports Centre at Fraser Park as well. And we have no doubt the
hubs planned for Naenae and Wainuiomata will have the same impact.”

Why integrated facilities?
Community Hubs and Sportsvilles are part of Council’s Long Term Integrated Community Facilities Plan, launched in 2012. Matt Reid says historically, Lower Hutt had many small facilities that were built for a single purpose, like community halls and libraries, and designed to serve the social and cultural needs of residents in the 1950s and 60s.

“They weren’t fit for purpose for what  oday’s more diverse communities need. The upkeep on them was expensive so they weren’t being well maintained and they were dotted round the place so even if they were in the same neighbourhood, they didn’t always work well together. Many of them would also have required significant earthquake strengthening in the near future. All of those factors meant we had to take the opportunity to look at the bigger picture.”

Council looked overseas for models that would better meet the needs of residents now, and in the future, and the Community Hub model was born. The  Hutt City Community Facilities Trust (CFT) was then established to help raise funds to bring the rejuvenation projects to life.

Matt Reid says the plan focuses on integration and rationalisation. “By combining our community’s facilities into hubs we’re able to update and modernise our community spaces, making them more efficient, broaden the range of activities they can host and increase the standard of services, all at less cost than maintaining the existing facilities.

“We can also strongly focus on each neighbourhood’s own very particular needs meaning that no Hub will be the same.”

The original Walter Nash Stadium was in high demand for local basketball and netball, so that function needed to be retained. As well as refurbishing the existing courts, the hub development  added three new indoor, high specification courts.

Koraunui’s name was gifted from the local Marae and the number one focus from the community was on children and young people. The hub’s large, hard surface space was designed and located  specifically so that youth activities could run in a noisy, hard wearing environment without impacting on other activities in the other areas of the building.

New customers for libraries 

The integration of Hutt City Libraries into the hubs has led to new opportunities to reach a wider range of the community that may not usually walk into a library.

Kat Cuttriss, Divisional Manager Libraries, says the biggest benefit is that it creates a seamless, one-stop-shop access for customers to a range of Council and community services in one location.

“That means our customers no longer need to visit multiple Council buildings to get access to all the Council and community services they need. And we ensure expert library services are an  ssential part of the mix, so that all community hubs staff can provide an excellent customer experience across the full range of services on offer in community hubs.”

The ‘Nash’ serving up more than sport

Twilight basketball at Walter Nash
Twilight basketball at Walter Nash

At 9pm on a Friday night a young woman walked onto the courts of the Walter Nash Centre during one of the regular Twilight Basketball sessions, but she wasn’t there to play. With her backpack slung over her shoulder, she approached the Operations Manager, Ross Barber, with a request – help with her homework.

“This is one of the things I love most about our facility and the Twilight Ball on Friday nights. Boy-oh-boy, maths has changed since I was at school, or even trying to help my children some years ago, but it was so great to see a couple of adults, including one of our Safe City Ambassadors, coming together to help her with her tricky maths problems,” he said.

“We often have a number of young people arriving at about 8pm for Twilight Ball that literally hound us to start – a whole hour and a half early. A few weeks ago, a young fellow even asked if he could invite his mates the next week ‘coz they don’t do nothin’ except cruise and I reckon they’d like to come and have a feed and I could teach them to play coz I’m pretty good’, this is all we could have hoped for when starting this initiative and others like it around the centre. Twilight has encouraged a growing number of both young people and their families to become involved in our library and the various child, youth and adult programs
we run.”

Young people are welcome Friday nights between 9.30pm and midnight to play basketball in a safe environment with parents, police officers and Council’s Safe City Ambassadors, while supporters and helpers cook a free sausage sizzle. In its first twelve months the programme had roughly 2500 attendees with the young people who attend self-regulating their own games, behaviour and gamesmanship, on and off the court.

As well as Twilight Ball, the Centre hosts a wide range of Council and community driven events and recently became the new home of the Taita Clubhouse, a creative and safe space for young people to work with adult mentors and explore their own ideas, develop new skills, and build confidence through the use of technology. Being located in the Hub will give the Clubhouse the opportunity to reach even more young people.

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