Penny’s Piece March 2016

Penny Gaylor Otaki's KCDC councillor
Penny Gaylor
Otaki’s KCDC councillor

Last month Te Waananga O Raukawa and our community were shaken by the destructive fire on the campus which claimed the library building.

This was a shocking event, and like many, as I stood for the first time staring at the burnt-out shell of what was once the library, I shared the community’s huge sense of loss.

As a Board member of Te Waananga I know of the plans and aspirations for the redevelopment of the building that was taking place.

At first glance it appears a sad sight, and there could be a temptation to focus on the negatives of what has happened but for three things, each of which are uplifting in their own way.

Firstly, within a matter of minutes of the fire being noticed the emergency services spring in to action, and the Ōtaki Volunteer Fire Brigade did an amazing job to contain the huge fire.

The Waananga Tumuaki has given them fitting praise for their skilful management of the fire, and because of that they were able to contain the fire to the one building and defeat it from forcing its way through the campus of old wooden buildings.

The firefighters also managed to rescue some important files, materials and artefacts, and in doing so Te Waananga did not lose anything that is irreplaceable.

To our brave and caring firefighters, a huge thank you.

Secondly, a unique event took place in the aftermath of the fire. I joined Uncle Rowdy, Koro Don Te Maipi, and the Principals and students of ten schools from throughout the Kapiti Coast district, along with Ōtaki Community Board Chair James Cootes and a group of Council staff to visit the site of the fire.

For Maori the fire is referred to as an Aitua, or a disaster, and it is a practice of tikanga Maori to acknowledge the grief caused as a result of the Aitua and show support and solidarity in moving forward alongside Te Waananga.

The welcoming powhiri was a significant opportunity for the education sector and community leaders to demonstrate we are united in supporting a re-build.

I was immensely proud of the young students, from primary schools through to the Head Boys of Ōtaki and Paraparaumu Colleges, who came to the place of adult learning to show they care.

And thirdly, when the Board meet last week, we were presented with the options for going forward. Already the Tumuaki and staff had turned their thinking to the future focus of how the re-build can best support the growth of Te Waananga.

Options and concepts have already been presented to the Board; to either replace and replicate, or build something new, or to look for the opportunity to build something considerably more that will see a custom-designed library and conference centre built over the old site.

Despite the damaging fire, plans and aspirations for the redevelopment of the building will still take place, and who knew the friendships that would be strengthened out of the event. Kia Kaha.