Hall gets much needed revamp gallery

From left, Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board member Walter Togiamua, Centre Project Manager Mereana Hona, Chairman of Te Roopu ...
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From left, Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board member Walter Togiamua, Centre Project Manager Mereana Hona, Chairman of Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust Brian O'Shea and the Trust Chief Executive Tania Thomas stand outside the new Te Rito Community Lifestyle Centre in Otahuhu.

An abandoned hall plagued by graffiti, smashed windows and squatters has been brought back to life, thanks to an initiative led by a Maori organisation.

Te Roopu Taurima O Manukau Trust, the country's largest kaupapa Maori disability organisation, has revamped the hall on Piki Thompson Way to make it Otahuhu's newest community resource.

The original hall opened in 1951 and was once a centre for local sporting clubs and an office for the Maori Wardens.

But over time it became unused and turned into a "bad state" with graffiti everywhere and a temporary home for squatters and homeless people. 

The hall is now the new Te Rito Community Lifestyle Centre and will provide a central resource for residents interested in improving their health and fitness, learning a new skill or connecting with others in the neighbourhood.

It comes complete with a multipurpose room, basketball court, reception and full changing rooms.

Te Rito will not just run services for people with disabilities. Chief executive Tania Thomas says the centre will offer a wide range of activities for all to use.

"Our aim is to create an environment where people feel comfortable and secure taking part. It is about something much bigger than Te Roopu Taurima; Te Rito is a place for the Otahuhu community," she says.

Community lifestyle manager Ainsley Darvell says people with disabilities can often feel isolated.

"A lot of these people feel they don't have a place they belong. They dont have good friends, networks. So there is a need for us to create for community engagement."

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"We are not here to make a profit. We saw an opportunity to run some stuff specifically for the people we support but also to create a place for these people to meet the rest of the community."

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board member Walter Togiamua says such facilities are limited in the  area.

"The centre will offer an environment for different groups to meet and interact." 

The new centre opens today with a powhiri and welcoming celebration at 10am and will host a  free family open day from 10am to 2pm on Saturday.

The public are welcome to come and have their say on what the hall can be used for. 

* Contact Mereana Hona on 259 2853 or terito@terooputaurima.org.nz for details or visitfacebook.com/teritocommunitylifestylecentre

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