New group to enlighten Wanaka

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A new group is set to extend the minds of retired Wanaka residents, says organiser Richard Paxman.

The University of the Third Age is so popular in Wanaka that the current group, the Upper Clutha U3A, has been closed to new members for two years.

Upper Clutha chairman Bruce Paulson said when they reached about 450 members two years ago they had to close their membership, and now had up to 40 people on a waiting list.

About 160 people came to each meeting and they “just didn’t have any more room” for new members, Mr Paulson said.

When Richard and Jill Paxman moved from Auckland to Wanaka last year they hoped to make new friends and uncover new learning by joining the group.

So when they discovered the group was closed to new members, Mr Paxman decided to do something about it.

“I said to myself, ‘I will start another one’.”

Through word of mouth and a notice online, he soon had around 20 people interested in joining a new group to be called Mt Aspiring U3A, he said.

“Soon we should have enough to get a steering committee and get the thing formalised.”

“When I retired about four years ago someone said ‘Why not join the U3A?’, which I did, and got so much out of it I thought, coming down here, I would simply pick up where I left off and join the U3A here and form an immediate social circle,” he said.

Mr Paxman said each U3A group was run its own way, but his initial thought was to have study groups on a wide range of topics in people’s homes.

“The study groups would study the history of science, World War 2, medieval history, Roman history .. you name it,” he said.

Both he and his wife, Jill, were looking forward to the group, which would involve guest speakers as well as discussions between members.

“If I’ve discovered anything, it’s that there is a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise here in Wanaka,” Mr Paxman said.

Mr Paulson was “pleased” and “very supportive” that another group was starting up.

With a lot of retired academics and “intellectually occupied” people in Wanaka, there was a lot of interest in a second group, Mr Paulson said.

“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t have more than one.”

There would be a public meeting at 2.30pm today at the Lake Wanaka Centre for people interested in the group, Mr Paxman said.