Projects about to blossom



The sound of sewing, sawing and sanding could soon be coming out of a new community space.

The Wanaka Community Workshop is a multipurpose site in Gordon Rd that will enable all kinds of projects to blossom.

Ben Acland, of Wanaka, is a trustee.

The idea came from his involvement in the Better Building Group, a local group which considered how to reduce building waste.

His first thought was to establish a men’s shed, utilising the skills of retired people in Wanaka — ‘‘picking up building materials from the building sites and then making them into things that the community needs like Lilliput libraries and rodent traps’’.

That evolved into a more wide-ranging approach that could encompass several different groups.

If there was a central location with tools and supplies they could be shared among the community for a variety of projects, Mr Acland said.

He looked at various places, including land owned by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and Otago Regional Council, where what he envisioned might be created but he realised it would be a long negotiation process which could mean nothing eventuated for many years.

So he decided to offer the Gordon Rd site as a way of ensuring the project got off the ground.

‘‘This building I own and so I took it to a committee of 10 people and we went through the pros and cons of fundraising for a building, waiting for council and the years that it might take to do that, against the process of me being a little bit generous as a landlord and signing up a lease that really benefits the trust,’’ Mr Acland said.

He and fellow Wanaka local Gwilym Griffith-Jones established a charitable trust and Mr Acland came to an agreement to provide the building for about 48% of market rent.

‘‘We thought if we could just get started we could move to other places at any time, because the lease isn’t going to hold us to it.’’

The trust would be able to renew or cancel the lease each year.

‘‘It is a one by five, so every year the trust can get out, but they have rights to five years.’’

The lease began on the first day of April and Mr Acland invited the local community to come and see the space.

A workbench, table saw, carpentry tools and materials had already been loaned or given to the workshop.

Mr Acland had a sewing background with businesses including a sheepskin boot manufacturing company, as well as his involvement in local clothing company Mons Royale with his brother Hamish Acland.

Fellow trustee Mr Griffith-Jones also had a sewing background as founder of clothing company Cactus Outdoor.

‘‘So we hope we will bring some industrial sewing machines and begin to repair backpacks and garments.’’

The trust had a booking from the Dunedin’s 4KT Elephants project, which helps people upcycle old clothes into soft toy elephants.

They would bring about 20 people showing how to create the soft toys to highlight the amount of textiles that go into landfill.

Other ideas included having an electrical workshop to repair appliances.

Metalworking and woodworking could take place, including a plan to use building material waste that could be turned into vermin traps.

The aim was to allow different groups to participate at various times of the day, including a men’s shed during the day, after-school programmes for youth, and adult courses in the evenings.