In the late 1980’s changing economies led to the closure of the Waiohiki dairy factory and its attached general store. The general store was a convenient place to get milk and other daily necessities and it was the thought of losing this as much as anything else that led to a community meeting being held at the Waiohiki Marae to see what could be done.
The meeting was attended by a good representation of both the Maori and Pakeha families who lived in the area and it was decided to approach the challenge as a bicultural partnership.
Four founding trustees were elected, Albie Gray (Chairman), Nigel Hadfield, Ross Duncan and Brian Calcinai. The Waiohiki Community Charitable Trust was duly established and registered.
Its purpose was to: “Encourage, promote, and foster positive relationships, strategic alliances and partnerships between the Maori and Pakeha families living in the rural areas of Korokipo, Pakowhai, Omarunui, Puketapu and Redcliffe, who collectively constitute the Waiohiki community”.
Founding Trustees: Brian Calcinai and Ross Duncan with present Chair Denis O’Reilly
The Trustees organised loans through Housing New Zealand, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Waiohiki Marae Committee and in 1989 purchased the land, buildings and general store.
The tough economic times soon impacted on the general store and despite best efforts it had to be closed. The Trustees utilised the houses on site as “social housing‟ to provide relief housing to local families and leased out the sheds and buildings for a range of purposes including a martial arts club, a tourist bus company and the Waiohiki Conservation Corps.
The celebrated corrugated iron artist Jeff Thompson set up in the „cheese factory‟. In 1999 Denis O’Reilly replaced Albie Gray as trustee and chairman and Jan-Gesa (Jenny) Weichbrodt-Borm became the secretary of the Trust and manager of the village site.
With the services of a full time manager the trustees were able to take a more strategic approach to the objectives spelled out in the founding deed “facilitate, develop and implement projects that will advance the social and economic well being of the population living in the Trust’s area”. The local Maori community has long expressed a desire to undertake micro-enterprises in the field of art and cultural tourism. The Trust had also noted a demand for workshop space for working artists and clubs in the art and crafts sector. It became apparent that building a cluster around the creative arts was the way to go. Within relatively quick succession the various clubs and groups now based at the village began to move in and establish themselves.
Jeff Thompson’s iconic corrugated Holden
The wonderful Helen Mason
2005 the Taradale Pottery Group was hosting an exhibition and it was visited by a doyen of the New Zealand arts and crafts movement, the celebrated potter Helen Mason. Helen fell in love with the place and said “Oh, I’d love to live here”. It was this comment that led to the conclusion that the Trust should establish accommodation for artists-in-residence.
In a sense this decision signalled the beginnings of the Waiohiki Creative Arts Village as a living concern. Architect Graham Weaver undertook consultation with the village’s user groups and over time an overall plan for the development of the Creative Arts Village was developed. The first accommodation for artists – appropriately named Helen Mason House – was opened by the Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen on 2005. In all the Trust aims to provide on-site accommodation for up to 16 residents.
Housing is also needed by families in the wider area so, in conjunction with Housing New Zealand Corporation, in 2006 the Trust undertook a comprehensive housing needs survey in the area. The survey results indicate the need to establish a Waiohiki Rural Housing Trust and this work is planned. Another local issue has been with youth who have not done well at school and are constrained from getting a good job because of their lack of skills and qualifications. Supported by the Ministry of Youth Development the Trust established the Waiohiki Youth Development Programme and this provided up to 12 youth at a time with opportunities to undertake second chance education and get work experience
Otataara Pa, reinstated by the Waiohiki Conservation corps.
The Trust also established a number of events including an annual Easter Market and Hui & Huilli, a Celtic Maori celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. The Governor General launched the Hui & Huilli and Dick Frizzel created the unique “lepbrochaun‟ as the iconic emblem for the event.
Obviously the sustainability of the village depends on artists and crafts people being able to sell their work so through the Ministry of Social Development the Trust has established an enterprise development project. This project includes working with members of the local hapu, Ngati Paarau to establish Maori tourism products and with the village’s clubs and artisans to establish retail facilities.