Regional | Ruapehu

Iwi and council identify preferred site for Raetihi hub

Land housing the Raetihi police station has been identified as the preferred location for a new, multi-functional community hub. Photo / Bevan Conley

Iwi and council partners working on a joint proposal to build a multi-purpose community centre in Raetihi have chosen their preferred site.

Iwi collective Te Korowai o Wainuiārua and Ruapehu District Council are developing plans for what could be the biggest build the Waimarino township has seen.

The preferred location for the proposed Raetihi Community Hub is the Crown-owned 5800sqm site of the town’s single-officer police station at 2-4 Seddon St.

The land is to be returned to Te Korowai o Wainuiārua under the $28.5m Treaty settlement it signed with the Crown on July 29, 2023.

Settlement legislation is still working its way through Parliament, but the council said the location was being recommended after site evaluations and consultation.

It was chosen because of “its size, ownership status and significant cultural connections to the surrounding landscape”, the council’s community and economic development executive manager Pauline Welch said.

The only other suitable site was land in the middle of town with empty buildings on it. It was owned by an out-of-town businessman who did not want to sell, Welch said.

Māori architectural firm Ōrua, working with Australasian architects and designers Architectus, are expected to reveal a concept design for the proposed building in July.

The design brief specifies a “fit for purpose” facility that brings together council and iwi services as well as community aspirations for shared spaces catering for educational, cultural, heritage and recreational needs.

Welch said the community hub was a shared vision with Te Korowai o Wainuiārua to create an inclusive space for everyone in the community. The project was envisioned as a joint venture, reflecting joint decision-making processes between the council and the iwi collective.

Work on the proposal began in 2018 but was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Intensive community consultation had since taken place to help decide what the facility should provide.

“The council and Te Korowai o Wainuiārua remain committed to ensuring that the Raetihi Community Hub becomes a cornerstone for local engagement and a symbol of communal pride,” Welch said.

The design brief calls for multi-functional spaces incorporating a library, meeting rooms, secure display areas for taonga, a council administration and service centre, an i-Site and Post Shop, a head office and archival spaces for Te Korowai o Wainuiārua, youth facilities, a functions area and service desks for police and community service providers.

The architects have also been asked to design a “compelling and contemporary” façade and landscaping that links the building to the rest of the town, looks toward the maunga and connects to the awa and the environment.

Welch told Local Democracy Reporting the community would be invited to give feedback on the design concept.

“Until the design is finalised this July, we appreciate the community’s patience. Once we unveil the concept, we eagerly look forward to receiving input on all aspects of the proposal, including the location.”

The preferred site is at the junction of State Highways 4 and 49 on the outskirts of the town centre. Welch said existing road issues near the site – such as the need for a roundabout at the junction – would need to be addressed.

“These infrastructure enhancements are essential and align with improvements planned for the Raetihi swimming pool facility.”

The council budgeted $1m for 2025 in its 2021-31 Long Term Plan toward the Community Hub project.

Te Korowai o Wainuiārua chairman Aiden Gilbert said the iwi collective had committed no funding to the build but could potentially supply “a piece of ground” appropriate for the hub on a lease arrangement, once settlement legislation was enacted.

He said the recommended site has views of Ruapehu and overlooks the Makotuku River.

Gilbert said he was awaiting the concept design with interest.

“Investment in Raetihi is well overdue because the council has neglected this town for so long,” Gilbert said.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.


Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting