Plans for fire station

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A Maori cultural centre and eco-shop is imagined for Wanaka’s old fire station.

Florence Micoud and Morgan Knoesen, of social enterprise Earth Collective Aotearoa Ltd, hope to raise $30,000 to secure the lease of the former fire station, owned by Ngai Tahu.

They raised nearly half that amount in just over a week and are asking the community to give or invest via their website or Givealittle.

Ms Micoud said the goal was to sell supplies such as bulk organic foods, eco-cleaning products, LED lights and other goods that were environmentally friendly with low amounts of packaging.

“We see it being laid out simply on pallets, and people could use their own containers to minimise waste,” Ms Micoud said.

Their company had been set up as a profit-making social enterprise that would reinvest any profits into the community.

Ms Micoud, who is library information manager at Mount Aspiring College, said if they did not secure the old fire station lease, they would continue to look for another site.

Co-partner in the venture Morgan Knoesen was a fighter pilot in the South African air force but now sees himself as an environmentalist and peace-loving activist.

“We can’t stay on the same track, and the only way forward is education, and to get each of us to make a pledge to be a better person for the environment,” Mr Knoesen said.

“Our idea is to make Wanaka a benchmark community for the rest of the world.”

Tania Brett, of Wanaka, said her family had been invited by Ms Micoud to use part of the old fire station as a Maori wharenui and communal meeting place.

“We are the local mana whenua, which means we are local to the land.”

Mrs Brett said her whanau had lived in Wanaka for at least 47 years and had wanted to have a space like this for some time.

“We are of Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Waitaha and Rapuwai descent, so we thought it would be really lovely to learn the songs for this area and our people,” Mrs Brett said.

“We thought we would keep an open mind and welcome the opportunity to have a free space where we could practise our tikanga, where we are and where we are from.”

Mrs Brett imagined a range of activities could take place, including learning waiata, kapa haka, storytelling and mahinga kai, which is the traditional way of harvesting food.

A proposal had been sent to the owners of the fire station, Ngai Tahu Property.

Chief executive David Kennedy said Ngai Tahu Property had bought the former fire station building in Wanaka from the New Zealand Fire Service.

“It was purchased as part of our strategy to investigate further opportunities in key regional markets,” Mr Kennedy said.

“We are at present considering options for future tenancy of the building.”