Community centre tops Stoke wishlist

SPOTLIGHT ON STOKE: Mayor Rachel Reese told a packed public meeting that Stoke has the council's attention.
SPOTLIGHT ON STOKE: Mayor Rachel Reese told a packed public meeting that Stoke has the council's attention.

Stoke is the fast growing part of Nelson city, and it has the council's attention, Mayor Rachel Reese confirmed to a packed public meeting in the suburb yesterday.

More than 850 people who contributed their thoughts on Stoke's future helped make the feedback one of the best community engagement processes the council had seen, Reese said.

Yesterday's public meeting, Spotlight on Stoke, attracted about 80 people including police, most city councillors, school leaders, members of the business community, and residents to St Barnabas Church to hear the results on feedback to the lengthy consultation process.

It revealed that a multi-use community centre was high on Stoke's wishlist, and a desire to see broader growth in the suburb's retail, commercial and recreational services.

Independent consultant Rob Greenaway, who helped design the consultation process, told the meeting that the results showed the desire to "create a heart of Stoke, and not just a building".

The council yesterday confirmed that another public meeting would also be held on Monday night, following complaints that a lunchtime meeting was too difficult for many to attend.

Council staff and contractors have been meeting and consulting with a wide range of agencies and people since early May. The main aim was to understand what Stoke residents wanted from the new community/recreation facility proposed for Greenmeadows reserve, but wider input on how the suburb might look in the future was also taken into account.

Council senior strategic adviser Nicky McDonald said councils could facilitate ways to re-generate the retail and commercial sector, but they were not areas local authorities could directly influence.

She said there were a lot of "blank walls" created by buildings, which had an impact on the feel of the place. "Councils can work around things like zoning to help beautify the centre."

McDonald said the stereotypes about Stoke were not true as there were a lot of young people and families who lived in the suburb.

Stoke resident Tony Hardiman said after the meeting that the planned development at Greenmeadows was a "great idea" and just what Stoke needed.

He said a suggestion from a member of the public at the meeting, that a childcare facility should be attached to any new centre was a great way to make it a true community centre.

Annette Robertson, who has recently moved to Stoke from Whangarei and who now lives near Isel Park, presented an idea on how to reinvigorate what she considered a "dead" and "run-down" park.

Isel Park and Broadgreen featured in public feedback as areas that needed improving.

Robertson said Isel was a "fantastic facility" and suggested an outdoor concert combined with a "carnival of animals" for children to bring the park alive.

Stoke Methodist Church leader Gary Clover reminded the council yesterday of the church's plans to accommodate meeting and club facilities in the revamped "multi-purpose worship centre".

The most audible response was in support of a member of the public upset that cyclists who did not use their bells on the shared pathways "really are dangerous". Another suggested nothing could happen in central Stoke until the council "got the parking sorted".

The council has allocated money to proceed with the community centre project but it was important to understand the community's views first, Reese said of the plan from here.

"Now we have a clear understanding of the requirements, I will be sitting down with council to progress this significant project," Reese said.

She said it would be a priority for the council, but because it would be funded through rates, and contributions from users, steps had to be followed.

"We want it to be a legacy project and something you can be really proud of."

Councillor Gaile Noonan said community involvement will be critical to the project's success.

A second Spotlight on Stoke public meeting will be held on Monday, August 25, at St Barnabas Church, Main Rd, Stoke, 7pm-8.30pm.

The Nelson Mail