Otaki Menzshed Formally Opened » June 2014

Aunty Hira blesses the Menzshed, flanked by James Cootes (left) and Valdis Plato
Aunty Hira blesses the Menzshed, flanked by James Cootes (left) and Valdis Plato

A crowd of over 50 people enjoyed the Winter sunshine last week.

The Nurses’ quarters that became the Ambulance station, adjacent to the old Maternity Hospital now has a new breath of life. Chairman Valdis Plato and 26 foundation members have transformed the 115 year old building. The eight rooms have been stripped and readied for work.

Menzsheds are a nation-wide organisation that has sprung to life, bringing men together in one community space to share their skills, have a laugh and work on personal and community projects. It’s a place for retired blokes to learn skills they never had the opportunity to learn in their working life. Men traditionally have smaller circles of friends than women, and the Menzshed provides a place where they can escape the stress of ‘underfoot syndrome’.

There are upwards of forty Menzsheds in New Zealand. Levin has one, Waikanae has one, so Valdis Plato took it on himself to get one going in Otaki.

The formal opening was a grand affair. Valdis welcomed guests, then Aunty Hira Royal  gave a formal blessing. She recalled that it was a priveledge to be there, and how ten of her eleven children were born ‘at this place’. She said it was good to see that the history of the place will continue ‘in a very special way’.  ‘It’s a place of loving, learning, sharing and caring for everyone’ she said.  ‘With your gifts and your talents we will do wonders on this site’.

Valdis Plato, Ross Church, Hira Royal and James Cootes plant a ceremonial tree Valdis Plato, Ross Church, Hira Royal and James Cootes plant a ceremonial tree
Valdis Plato, Ross Church, Hira Royal and James Cootes plant a ceremonial tree

James Cootes, chair of the Otaki Community Board said this was the first official opening he has performed. ‘This is a treasure’ he said. He thanked Michelle Baker and the Office of Treaty Settlements for making the building available. ‘Lots of groups in the community will benefit’ he said.
To add more flavour to the occasion, we were privileged to have Valdis’ daughter, Olinka Heath sing an original composition Light At My Back, before the Mayor, Ross Church planted an Akeake tree to complete the ceremony.

Guests were then able to examine the building and its collection of woodworking equipment. Some non-structural walls have been removed to create an open workshop. Much of the wallpaper on scrim has been removed to expose the elegant pristine 115 year old Rimu sarking.

Listen up, I'm about to give a blessing to the Menzshed!
Listen up, I’m about to give a blessing to the Menzshed!

The Otaki Menzshed is open Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10am to 4pm, up the driveway in Mill Road, across from Domain Road. Currently projects include rehabilitation of Montessori’s carpentry table. Melanie White reports that  the children are excitied at the prospect.  Otaki College have a bike project that Menzshed are considering, which would see old bikes refurbished for a possible ‘cycle exchange’ modelled of successful European exchanges, where people are encouraged to ‘borrow’ bikes to transport themselves around town, leaving them at nominated depots. Watch this space….

Valdis Plato and his team of merry men would be happy to show you around their wonderful Menzshed.

Light at my Back

Olinka Heath, unaccompamied sings her Light at my Back
Olinka Heath, unaccompamied sings her Light at my Back

Olinka Heath 1997

I walk in the morning — I walk in the evening
I walk in the morning with light at my back

It’s past understanding, it’s past my minds knowing
It’s past understanding this light at my back

It calls me from sleep and it calls me to waking
It calls me from sleep oh this light at my back

It’s past understanding, it’s past my minds knowing
It’s past understanding this light at my back

It rises from hillsides, it wraps the great valleys
The sea is its child oh this light at my back

It calls those who’ll listen — it calls those who do not
It’s my truth – it’s your truth, this light at our backs

For we are humanity on this, precious planet
The light is our reason, this light at our backs

It calls those who’ll listen – it calls those who do not
It’s my truth, it’s your truth this light our backs.