Council team focuses on Awatere

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2014

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The Marlborough District Council has a team working with the Awatere community to work on solutions for buildings damaged in last year's earthquake and to give its townships some "oomph" for the future.

Project leader Jon Cunliffe said his team was speaking to as many people in the Awatere as possible to provide a needs assessment report to the council within the next month.

"We're approaching it from the point of view of listening, rather than going in with solutions in mind. They will emerge from the process."

During the council's annual plan and budget-setting process earlier this year, the Awatere community asked for help to fix buildings and community resources damaged in the earthquakes. Given the different perspectives expressed in the submissions, the council needed a clearer picture of the whole community's needs before it could make any financial commitment to repairs or rebuilding.

The team had been asked to see what opportunities there were for sharing buildings, Cunliffe said.

The Anglican and Catholic churches were doing that in "a quite outstanding" way, he said.

In both Ward and Seddon, the churches had been damaged. In Seddon, the two congregations were using the Catholic church building, and in Ward, they were using the Anglican building.

"Blow me down, if one doesn't have a service at 8am, and one at 10am, and they meet up in the middle for morning tea. How good is that?"

The people in the Awatere were amazingly resilient and had supported each other, Cunliffe said. The council work was about meeting future needs, and providing some "extra oomph".

"There is a bit to do in terms of buildings for sure. But the people themselves are very resilient and pretty strong and ready to move on."

The community had been through a traumatic experience, but was looking to the future.

The Awatere population had changed over the past 15 years and was very diverse. Cunliffe said one person he had spoken to had lived in the Awatere most of their life. There used to be 10 properties in the street, now there were 73.

"There has been a diversifying of properties, sizes, types and number, and with it, people."

His work was about helping people adapt to the changes, he said. Seddon's population was about 500 people, but swelled to 1000 with seasonal workers. Any future plans had to take those people into account.

Any potential community-shared building, for example, would need to provide for recognised seasonal employment (RSE) workers, he said.

The workers were in the district for seven months at a time, more than half the year, and they were bona fide members of the community, too.

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This was recognised by the churches and other groups in the Awatere, he said. "They're an integral part of the community. I think it's fantastic. I've been quite moved by a lot of stuff."

The work the churches did caring for the pastoral needs of the community had been surprising, Cunliffe said. They worked in all sectors, not just their denomination.

- The Marlborough Express

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