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Finding the Focus

the movement to establish community centres in Avondale, 1947-1990

Lisa J Truttman July 2013

Community Centres in our landscape – 1840s to 1970
The concept of community centres has deep roots, going back into American, British and even Scandinavian origins. An early example of a facility developing from a community club/drop-in centre to community centre with meeting spaces, hall and community activities is the Thringstone Community Centre in Leicestershire, established in 1901, and still in operation. 1

Here in New Zealand, there is also the concept of marae as community meeting place and centre, which the colonial notions imported in the 19th century mirrored without conscious awareness of this.

Mechanics Institutes in New Zealand from the 1840s

formed part of the basis for the establishment

of the idea of community libraries, and places where the community could also gather to hear educational lectures in small halls. In Auckland, the earliest combination of place of adult learning and education in combination with health and exercise was the Leys Institute from 1905.


libraries were built with accompanying lecture spaces up until the establishment of the Grey Lynn library in 1924.

The modern understanding of “community centre” as a purpose-built place for recreation, meetings and adult education, came into more common use from the 1930s and the Depression period, mainly through reports from overseas of the establishment of such places. In New Zealand, though, credit is given to Leonard John Wild (1889-1970) who, as headmaster of the Feilding Agricultural High School, started the first experiment in operating a community centre along adult education lines in the country.

The Carnegie Corporation presented an art collection to Wild’s school in 1934. The school’s Board of Managers set up a committee to manage the housing of the collection, and Wild put forward the idea that such a collection should be accessible to the community. In 1937, Wild visited examples of community centres overseas; the village colleges at Cambridgeshire and the Danish Folk Schools (which had existed since the 1870s). On his return, with financial backing from the Minister of Education Peter Fraser, Wild worked with the Somersets (Hugh Crawford Dixon Somerset and his wife Gwendolen Lucy Alley Somerset) to set up the Feilding Community Centre in 1938. This facility remained attached to the high school, clearly described as a “community centre for further education”, and was not run by a separate committee until 1945. However, the centre was used by local community groups for their own purposes as well, so this example more or less does fit the description of what we know as a community centre today. 4

Of note is that at Feilding, in September 1938, nursery classes were started which evolved from small groups where children learned through play, to become the Feilding Nursery Play Centre with

affiliation to the NZ Playcentre organisation. According to Mrs Somerset, “Adult education is integrated with early childhood education,” the mothers undertaking some form of child study at the Feilding centre. 5

In 1937, the Physical Welfare and Recreation Act was passed, which provided for a specialised branch within Internal Affairs to carry out the Act’s provisions, and empowered the Minister “to make grants to local authorities or voluntary organisations for the purpose of assisting in the provision of a wide range of facilities including centres for the use of clubs, societies or organisations including in their objects the physical well-being and recreation of the people and social activities related thereto.” From March 1938, groups around the country began to apply for grants to set up halls in new housing areas. 6 The National Council of Physical Welfare and Recreation, from early in 1939, encouraged the participation of territorial authorities in setting up community centres. The National Council did not just have the narrow focus of community education and physical recreation, but also encouraged cultural activities, hobbies, and arts and crafts activities. 7

In this atmosphere, Auckland City Council in November 1938 proposed a “community centre” as a memorial to pioneer mothers, with the view to the upcoming centenary celebrations in 1940.

“Endorsement was lent by the Metropolitan Centennial executive at a meeting last night to a recommendation emanating from the women's sub-committee that the pioneer mothers of the province be recognised in centennial year by the establishment in Auckland of a permanent memorial in the form of a community centre for the women of the present day. It is planned that the building should be at least three-storeys in height, and make provision for an inner sanctuary dedicated to the memory of the pioneer mothers, in which their names will be perpetuated, and also for an assembly hall to seat 500 people, committee rooms, retiring rooms and a small restaurant.” 8

This project was to become the Ellen Melville Hall in memory of the Pioneer Women in the central city.

The idea of “centennial memorial halls” in districts around the country, with the opportunity of grants towards their set-up from the government under the new legislation did take hold.

“Some districts of New Zealand have chosen the building of community centres as their centennial memorials. The great value of such centres is emphasised in a publication of the British National Fitness Council. "A community centre —as the name implies—is a building or group of buildings in which the local community can find facilities for healthy recreation whatever their tastes," it is

stated. "Some are designed specially for young people; some cater only for grown-ups; others cater for both, but in buildings which provide distinct accommodation. In the absence of such a centre, the possibilities of healthy indoor exercise are, in many districts, very severely limited and, valuable as clubs and smaller organisations are, there is a great need also of centres which provide facilities on a bigger and better scale." It is mentioned that in smaller localities, where large schemes are not practicable, the village halls are becoming increasingly helpful. They are being used as the village gymnasium, and for recreational physical training, boxing and fencing instruction, folk dancing and active games. For such uses the hall should, if possible, be not less than 60 feet by 30 feet and the walls should be 10 feet to 12 feet to the eaves. There should be a well-laid hard-wood floor, changing accommodation and showers and storage for gymnastic equipment when the hall is used for other purposes.” 9

“Rangiora, the principal town of North Canterbury, has the distinction of being the first in New Zealand to undertake the building of a complete community centre, following the examples set in America. The plans provide for the inclusion of a gymnasium, meeting hall, reading rooms, office rooms for sports bodies, dressing rooms, and other equipment. It is hoped to have a swimming bath also. A large sum of money for the building has already been raised in the district, and the people of the town and district are confident that, they will achieve their ideal wholly with their own effort. In Dunedin there is a movement to establish a community centre through the recently-formed federation of sports bodies, and there is a similar movement in Invercargill. In Auckland an effort is being made to obtain accommodation which will serve as suitable headquarters for sports bodies and the physical welfare organisation. In Hamilton the Bledisloe Hall has been adapted as a centre for sports bodies. In a brief comment on projects for community centres, the Minister of Internal Affairs (Mr Parry) said that they were cases of local enterprise. Officers of the Department's Physical Welfare and Recreation branch would be pleased to give helpful advice, as they had knowledge of the latest developments in other countries, but the community centres would be established and controlled by the people in the localities concerned.” 10

Tied in with this, the Housing Construction Department during the 1940s and 1950s included the idea of incorporating community centres, along with retail and education facilities, with the large state housing projects, including those at Orakei, 11 and the Wesley Estate at Mt Roskill 12 from 1943.

At the end of 1943, a sub-committee of the Auckland University College’s Advisory Committee of Adult Education published a report on community centres. Newspapers at the time, reporting on this, mentioned that “community centres as a pivot of adult education development throughout New Zealand is likely to be advanced as a suitable War Memorial for the Dominion.” However,

there wasn’t a policy from government linking war memorials with community centres until these references. From that point, though, with the Department of Internal Affairs in charge both of war memorials and the community centre grant programme, the two became fixed together.

Halls and

community centres which included the words “war memorial” in their name received government subsidies for their construction through to the end of the 1950s. However, in 1949 the Minister Mr Parry announced that community centres which were not war memorials were still eligible for a pound for pound construction subsidy. 14

Under the terms of the Adult Education Act 1947, the Minister of Education was empowered to establish community centres either separately or in connection with any school, recognise existing community centres under the Act in order that they could apply for adult education grants, and either subsidise or pay the whole of salaries for community centre staff. 15 Directly influencing the history of the idea of a community centre for Avondale, the new National Government in 1950 withdrew subsidies for community centres which were not war memorials. The Physical Welfare and Recreation branch was terminated over the course of 1950-1955, so the era of advice and assistance from government to territorial authorities regarding the planning and implementation of community centres came to an end. 16 The Municipal Corporations Act 1954, though, gave Auckland City Council the power to set up community centres (setting up “community centre districts”), and in 1958 the Auckland City Empowering (Community Centres) Act was passed: “on account of the rapid growth of the residential population of the City of Auckland, it has not been possible adequately to provide social, cultural, recreational, and educational facilities for the residents of the city contemporaneously with the erection of residences: And whereas it is expedient that the Auckland City Council should be empowered to take steps towards the provision, particularly within the residential areas in the city, of such facilities as the Council may think necessary to that end …” Community centres were defined as “any facility or group of facilities for social, recreational, cultural, or educational purposes or for the physical or intellectual well-being and enjoyment of the residents of the City of Auckland or of any group or section of them.” Council had the power to appoint management committees for the community centres, considering nominations from voluntary groups in the area. A poll of Glen Innes residents under this Act in 1960 was rejected (the scheme would have included a shilling per week levy on Glen Innes householders to finance a community centre scheme), but an action group formed there in 1966 to promote the building of a centre next to the local library and Plunket rooms. However, the 1960 failure in Glen Innes meant that Auckland City Council abandoned all attempts to apply the 1958 Act. 17

A community adviser was appointed in 1970, and policy evolved from that point regarding community centres and community need. 18 In 1964, the Education Act took in provisions regarding community centres for education purposes,

which did allow for some funding and support avail-

able for community centres. However, Graham Bush in his 1971 history of Auckland City Council wrote: “Private pursuits, notably the appetite for television, have dulled civic consciousness, making the “old-style” Community Centre, if not redundant, certainly no longer indispensable.” 20

Avondale’s community centres – 1867-1967
The earliest community hall in Avondale was the 1867 Whau Public Hall, which included the earliest susbscription library in the district until the 1880s, but this building remained in the hands of trustees until the last remaining trustee, John Bollard, vested it to the Avondale Road Board in 1915. The Road Board altered the wooden building, added the brick and concrete front offices and entry to serve as the district’s town hall, meeting rooms, and municipal hall. In the 1920s, under the Avondale Borough Council, the wooden hall was shifted to the adjoining site and the rest of the Town Hall completed. After amalgamation with Auckland City in 1927, the Town Hall became a cinema, while the public hall saw service once again as a library from 1931.

Around 1912, the Avondale Road Board set up an office on St Judes Street (moving out in 1915), at the eastern corner if Geddes Terrace and St Judes Street, the site today of part of a pensioner unit development. Up until the late 20th century a small hall existed at the corner. During the 1920s this served as the turncock’s office and depot, political and election meetings were held there, and in the early 1940s it was the local EPS headquarters during World War II. This was apparently one of the early suggestions for a possible community centre in Avondale, in 1945.

The old Road Board building, St Judes Street (1957 aerial). Cinema (now Hollywood), public hall and St Ninians lower right. AWHS collection.

A new use is proposed for the small hall at the corner of St. Jude Street and Geddes Terrace, which served as the local EPS headquarters during the years when the organisation was active. The City Council has agreed to make this hall /available for the purposes of a community centre for the young people of the district, and other buildings may also be provided on the site. The aim is to develop healthful activities, including indoor games. Probably half a century old, the hall was built by the Avondale Road Board, the first local authority in the district and was for many years used by church organisations for Sunday services in the days when Avondale was only sparsely settled. 21

On 22 July 1947, the headmaster of the Avondale Technical High School, Leslie Edward Titheridge, wrote to the Town Clerk at Auckland City Council after a meeting of a discussion group of the Avondale Technical High School Parent-Teacher-Resident Association. The subject of the discussion meeting was “Social Conditions in Avondale.”

“It was unanimously agreed that the opportunity for sound community work were very limited due to the inadequacy of buildings available for social gatherings and community activities in general. It was felt that there were one or two ways in which the City Council could help in the development of a fuller community life here in Avondale …

“It is recommended that the City Council take over an area of land close to the business centre for development in the future as a Community centre or for other public purposes. There is a reasonably sized section on the South-west corner of Rosebank Road and the Great North Road [vacant lot later taken up by the National Bank in the mid 1950s], or alternatively just past the Post Office. On this site the Public Library and a small community hall might first be built, with provision for additions later.” 22

The Chief Librarian John Barr agreed with the idea of incorporating a library at Avondale with a community centre. The 1931 library at the old public hall on St Georges Road had become inadequate and more isolated from the centre of business at Avondale shops, which by 1947 concentrated at the Rosebank/Great North Road intersection. Avondale branch of Citizens and Ratepayers,
24 23

The idea was also supported by the

the Avondale Welfare Committee,

the Avondale

Businessmen’s Association and the Avondale Returned Servicemen’s Club. 26

The City Engineer was asked to investigate, and decided that the best area for a community centre and library in Avondale was on a three acre site between Great North Road and Highbury Street, fronting Rosebank Road. “The area is flat and well placed in relation to the business centre and would, due to its surroundings, impart a feeling of breadth essential to the success of such a project.” In his report, the City Engineer allowed for car parking provisions on the site, both for the

Detail of the area (yellow outline) proposed for designation as a community centre, 1947. From detail of Rosebank Estate plan, 1882 (ref. NZ Map 4559, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library)

community centre and the shopping centre itself. A total of nine lots were involved; three fronting Highbury Street, two of which were vacant at the time, and six fronting Rosebank Road, four occupied by dwelling, one with both a shop and a dwelling, and one next to the Masonic Hall which was vacant. The rear portions of two Great North Road lots were considered as part of the plan as well, and a strip giving pedestrian access through to Great North Road. He also proposed a realigning of Highbury Street through Tait Park, absorbing the rest into the community centre area, and relocating the playground to another part of the total site. He felt that Tait Park was “a very unattractive children’s play area and could not be improved sufficiently to raise it to a standard befitting its purpose and prominent position.” 27 On 4 March 1948 the Council resolved “that an area of approximately 3 acres of land in Rosebank Road be acquired by Council and that when a new library for Avondale is provided, such library be on this site.” The resolution did not mean the Council proposed to erect buildings for a community centre on the site; the City Engineer needed to undertake further investigation. 28

The Avondale branch of the Auckland Citizens and Ratepayers Association were very keen to pursue the proposal of the community centre. “We envisage a new library being built or the existing library transferred to this area, a reasonably large social hall constructed with a stage suitable for

The patchwork of sections which made up the Rosebank-Highbury area, proposed for the community centre. From ACC 275 48-187, Auckland Council Archives.

dramatic, orchestral and concert work, plus a supper room and other small subsidiary rooms as reading or card rooms. The hall would be used, in addition to the above, for dances, socials and indoor games such as badminton, table tennis etc.

“At the same time we feel that such a composite building would be extremely suitable for Plunket work, a possible crèche or kindergarten or even for council purposes such as the collection of rates or handling of other local council business.” 29

In all, 11 lots in total were proposed to be acquired by Council to make up a total site of just over 3 acres. The solicitor of the occupier of 93 Rosebank Road, J Cornish, wrote on his client’s behalf objecting to the Council taking over that piece of land, on which he ran a grocer’s store and lived in a house at the rear.
30 31 32

The owner of No. 93 Eric William Dunn also objected,

as did Mrs Mary and Angus Cecil

Whyle, who ran a drapery and child’s ware business at No. 95 Rosebank Road, Sadgrove at 99 and 101 Rosebank Road. 33

The Town Clerk asked the City Engineer, in light of the objections received, how long it would be before the properties would need to be vacated for construction work to commence. The answer given, taking into account the post-war conditions in the building trade and other factors, was 5-10 years, with the lot and house at 91 Rosebank Road required immediately for a library site.

It was

resolved by Council on 8 July 1948, therefore, to only acquire some of the sites (mainly vacant ones) under the Public Works Act, and simply advise the other owners of Council’s intentions to acquire their properties within the timeframe suggested by the City Engineer. 35

Over time, bit by bit, Auckland City Council did acquire property at the site. 89 Rosebank Road, from Titirangi Lodge, £320. 36 91 Rosebank Road, from Charles Sperry Craig, 12 November 1951. 37 93 & 95 Rosebank Road, from Eric William Dunn, 26 November 1951, 38 for £3,340. 39 97 Rosebank Road, from Mrs Mary Marshall, December 1958, for £2,300. 40 99 & 101 Rosebank Road, from Angus Cecil Sadgrove, 17 December 1948 41 and 23 December 1948 respectively, 42 for £1725/5/-. 43 1 Highbury Street, from G G Coleman, 25 August 1948, £800. Other purchases of Highbury (vacant land) were from W J C Harborne (£310) and F H Brocklehurst (£305). 44 Rear of 1843 Great North Road, from A Syers, £290. 45

Problems with surface water drainage at the site, something which was to prove a problem for the future community centre right from its construction in 1989-1990, were first noted in October 1948,

“Proposed Community Centre for Avondale”, Architectural Division plans (Tibor Donner), 1948. AKC 0339734-003, 004, Auckland Council Archives

when a report was made as to the feasibility of creating a temporary parking area on the vacant land next to the Masonic Lodge. “The area which it is proposed to develop consists of flat land, about half of which is covered with grass and the remainder with small trees and bushy growth. The site is just over half an acre in area, and if fully developed would accommodate about 120 cars.

“The site was investigated recently and it was found that the surface was in a water-logged condition with surface water, several inches deep, lying in all the low places. It was apparent that on account of the low-lying nature of the area and the condition of the sub-soil, that it would be necessary to provide a system of surface drainage before any kind of surfacing could be carried out.” 46

In December 1949, the City Engineer described the proposed buildings in the development in a report, each as self-contained units, linked to each other. These included:

A library with 6,000 square feet of floor space; A 500 seat hall, 12,500 square feet, with small gallery “and other adjuncts”; A gymnasium, 11,500 square feet, with partly roofed patio and attached smaller rooms for lounge, committee rooms, youth organisation; A kindergarten (900 square feet), and Plunket rooms (1400 square feet). The total estimated cost was given as £89,000. 47

The Avondale Citizens and Ratepayers wanted to organise a meeting between their group, other Avondale groups and the Mayor to discuss Avondale’s need for a community centre in early 1950. This meeting however was indefinitely postponed due to the coming absence overseas of the Town Clerk, who was to be away until the end of 1951, part of his time spent gathering information on overseas community centres.48

By 1953, as no development had yet taken place, Council leased the vacant and blackberry-ridden area fronting Highbury Street to a Mr L M Brown for 12 months for use as a market garden.


June 1954, residents along Great North Road, plus one at 5 Highbury Street, petitioned Council complaining that the area was covered by “rank growth, large patches of blackberry and gorse with a little hemlock sprinkled in for good measure.” The petitioners included two photographs to illustrate their point, wryly captioned “Civic Centre, Avondale”. 50 In October 1955, perhaps to help solve this problem permanently, the Council agreed to grant the local business association right to use the vacant sections as car parking. 51 From that point, the pedestrian access to Great North Road became a car park exit.

“Civic Centre, Avondale” 1954. Photos taken by petitioners. ACC 275 48-187, Auckland Council Archives

On 2 July 1956, the Town Clerk prepared a report on provision of community centres in Auckland. In August that year, Council agreed “to give favourable consideration to assist, by way of subsidy or otherwise, the organising of a Community Centre in any area where residents are willing to bear a portion of the cost involved and the Government has agreed to subsidise the work.” 52

In July 1958, Councillor Albert E Bailey called on residents in Avondale and Blockhouse Bay to petition Council for an immediate start on the Avondale Community Centre Scheme, and to agree to pay the special levy as per the 1958 Empowering Act.

However, residents refused to sign the

petition, and no interested organisations had approached Council with regard to the proposed Community Centre. 54 The last piece of land the Council required was finally purchased only in December that year. 55 In October 1959, even before the failed attempt at Glen Innes, Council referred to “a lack of interest by residents in the establishment of a Community Centre at Avondale”, and resolved to have the Finance Committee look into whether or not the property already bought at Avondale should be retained. 56 The Finance Committee, however, despite the lack of local interest and the ongoing costs of maintaining the buildings the Council continued to rent out to tenants, decided not to dispose of the 11 sites. “It may be held that there is no pressing need for a community centre but the position may well change in a very few years when the cost of purchasing similar centrally situated land (if it could be obtained) would be very heavy.” 57 Council adopted the report 7 March 1960. 58

Councillor Bailey didn’t stop campaigning, though. He organised a meeting of around 20 local organisations in Avondale in 1961-1962.

The local branch of the Labour Party wrote to Council in

1963, asking what was happening regarding the community centre. visit the situation in 1965. 61

They were advised that

Council wasn’t able to give the project any loan priority, due to lack of local support, but would re-

October 1965 plan for the Rosebank-Highbury site, “Proposed Stage 1 Development Library, Car Park & Pensioners Flats”. ACC 275 48-187, Auckland Council Archives

In October 1965, however, plans were prepared again for the site. The Highbury Street property was designated for 36 unit pensioner housing, while 99-101 Rosebank Road was set aside for “future development as a public park.” The remainder of the site was mapped out as a future kindergarten and Plunket rooms, alongside a new library. 62 In March 1966 it was proposed to have a prefabricated hall from Keith Hay Ltd moved onto the site alongside the pensioner housing, for use as a pensioners’ hall, but this did not come to pass.

The Ngati Rahiri Maori Welfare Committee approached

Council in April 1967, with a proposal to set up a marae, separate community hall, dining room, library and administration offices on the Highbury-Rosebank site, but their application was de65

clined, “the site will be fully utilised with the building of pensioner flats and a community hall and the library and facilities attached to the community centre generally.” The pensioner units were completed by late 1968. 66 It took another six years for the library to be located there.

Avondale’s community centres – 1973-1990
With the construction and opening of the new Avondale Library on the Rosebank Road site in September 1973,

the old hall where the library had once been was remodelled internally, and

became the Avondale Community Centre. Described as one of a number of “genuine community centres” owned by the City Council by historian Graham Bush, 68 I would have said that it was more of a service centre/meeting hall than a true community centre. However, the Avondale Citizens Advice Bureau opened there in November 1973, 69 the Council Traffic Department moved in for testing for new licences in 1974, 70 and the Community Centre opened 12 October that year, with its own management committee. 71

In the same year, the land Council owned at Rosebank-Highbury was designated as a future community centre site in the District Plan. 72

Campaigns for a community centre
By 1977, the Avondale Community Centre Action Group had been set up. The Steeles factory building in Upper Rosebank Road had become vacant, and meetings were organised in November 1977 to discuss a proposed plan where the Auckland City Council could lease the building from its owners to set up a community centre. 73

From September 1976 until August 1978, a survey was undertaken by the Action Group “to discover the needs of the Avondale people in the way of a community centre.” One house in eight was surveyed, 4,000 forms delivered and 3,200 collected a week later. Local resident Brian Mehaffy suggested that on the basis of the result of the survey a trust be established by the Action Group, appointing a solicitor. The survey, while admitted by members of the Action Group to be “amateur”,

The 1867 public hall on St Georges Road as the Avondale Community Centre. From Avondale Community News, August 1980. AVO 002, Auckland Council Archives

did not indicate that many in Avondale felt the Council’s Rosebank Road site from the previous attempt to establish a community centre, next to the library, was the most suitable. Concerns were raised that the site, with the pensioner housing and library already installed, was now too limited for a large community centre, and that it was too close to traffic. The Action Group committee began a Community Centre fund from December that year. 74

Around the same time, the Council were undertaking a policy review with regard to community centres in the city. On 24 August 1978 they gave consideration to a report by a senior planner which included recommendations for maximising the use of existing facilities, explore the possibility of taking advantage of the Government’s Special Works programme of Ministry of Recreation and Sports grants, and to encourage closer liaison with school authorities, church organisations, sports and other local groups “for the express purpose of maximising the use of existing facilities.” The Council agreed to support “the principle of promoting the establishment of focal points within the community.” They considered a planning report on the desirability of establishing a community and recreational centre at Avondale (as well as at Meadowbank). 75 This appears to have been partly inspired by Council reports at this time on the Avondale Shopping Centre which also highlighted the need for a community centre. 76

When plans were proposed in mid 1978 for public toilets to be installed on Great North Road opposite the end of Crayford Street West, the Avondale Community Committee put forward the suggestion of adding a space for the local Plunket (already finding their site on upper Rosebank Road inadequate) as well as a shoppers’ crèche. At the time, the District Plan designated the site as a “proposed public amenity which will include public toilets and crèche.” Recommendations were made for the Director of Planning and Social Development to provide a planning brief, and the City Architect to draw up plans for the proposed building. site, at 99 Rosebank Road. 78 In 1982, this was approved.

Only the public toilet was completed. In

1981, Plunket asked Council for permission to move into one of the old villas on the Rosebank Road

By early 1979, the Community Committee were recommending that Council use and acquire land with Great North Road and Rosebank Road frontages, adjoining a church – which appears to indicate the land next to the Methodist Church site in upper Rosebank Road north, as well as the Council’s car park area.

Also of note was the reference in the Community Committee minutes that “through the Community Committee, a fund raising incorporated society has been sponsored to co-ordinate and foster the provision of a community centre at Avondale.” They resolved “That $250 be paid to the Avondale Community Centre Society Inc. to help establish the administration of the Society.” agreed to be chairman of the fundraising trust arm of the new society.
80 81 79

Ces Renwick

Foundation trustees were while the inaugural

Ces Renwick, solicitor Don Thomas of New Lynn, and Jonathan Hunt MP,

committee for the society itself were Dr Allan Williamson (Chairman), Suzanne Sinclair (Deputy Chairman and Registrar), Ivy Davis (Secretary), Brian Mehaffy (Treasurer), Fay O’Brien (Public Relations), Betty Campbell, Elva Kirby, and Eric Kidd. 82 However, this Society went into abeyance shortly after.

Rosebank Community House
The story of the Rosebank Community House, at 97 Rosebank Road, is one where the ideals of providing a community focus and providing a place for further education and recreation, as exemplified by the early origins of the concept of community centres in New Zealand, came not from territorial authority planning schedules, designations of land use or broad community development policies, but from a grassroots sense of need within the community of Avondale itself. The general feeling within the community during the 1970s that “we need a real community centre” began to truly coalesce with the establishment and growth of the community house.

The Rosebank Community House at 97 Rosebank Road, Avondale (1979-1989). From Rosebank Community House scrapbook, AWHS collection

In 1977, three Citizens Advice Bureau workers (Josie Perham, Maisie Fitton and Marje Hughes) set up a drop-in centre on three month’s trial at the Victoria Hall on Rosebank Road, beside the Rosebank (later George Maxwell Memorial) Cemetery. In November 1978, this had become successful enough that the Rosebank Community House Society was incorporated. 83

The aims and purposes of the Society were:

(a) To provide a focus for community activities, and to foster and promote a sense of community spirit among all ages and all sections of the Avondale area; (b) to provide a common meeting place for individuals and groups, and to facilitate the establishment of learning, recreational and support services and activities; (c) to act as a resource and information centre; (d) to provide an organisational framework through which the community can make its desires known, and get to work on its own needs

Marjorie Hughes wrote: “Over a period of two years, as workers at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Avondale, a group of three women discussed the frequency of calls from people who said that they felt lonely, were not meeting people, felt isolated, and were reluctant to make contact with any established groups, mainly because they felt inadequate to do so. It appeared that they were afraid to take the initiative in making social contact, possibly from long periods of isolation, and lacked self values; this needing support to integrate to society.

“Discussing this with Julie Thompson, community advisor at the time, we agreed to commence a “Drop In” at Victoria Hall, Orchard St., weekly on Wednesday mornings. We started with a certain amount of apprehension, as we had no idea what to expect, or how to cope. Fortunately the three of us knew each other, had worked well together, and were prepared to give it a go for three months. That was October 1977, and by the December we were getting steady numbers “dropping in”. We agreed with Ms. Thompson to continue in 1978.

“From the morning sessions developed requests for discussion groups, as the people grew to know each other. The women had developed groups for handcraft, ie. painting, macramé, crochet etc. From this beginning we were able to facilitate self-assertion, self-awareness and solo-parenting discussion groups, under the guidance of tutors from Technical Institute. These groups have been meeting in members’ homes, or wherever we could. From this growth we were able to establish the need for and desire to work towards a Community House.

“At this time Ms. Thompson left. However, prior to her departure, she arranged with the City Council to appoint Carole Stewart as a co-ordinator to work with our group to help develop a Community House in the Rosebank area. With this help, we formed an Incorporated Society to work to this end.”84

The Society had planned to move to Kiritoa Street in March 1979,

but this was changed when

around this time, the house at 97 Rosebank Road became vacant, and the Society moved the drop-in centre to the new location beside the library, on the site of the planned community centre. They received a Council grant of $2,500 for rent, power, gas and telephone rental, and officially opened 2 July 1979. 86

The lasting legacy of the Rosebank Community House is not only in establishing the “drop in” concept of community outreach in the area, as well as the institution of spaces where a variety of recreational, creative and educational activities can be organised and enjoyed, but also the connection between early childcare and the functions of a community centre. “Family day care” was a scheme which matched children with families, giving working mothers “an alternative to daycare centres for their children.”

This scheme, originally called “community families” (or “Dial a mum” in the

press, according to Graham Bush), began in Glen Innes in 1977. “Community mothers” under the scheme cared for children in their own homes, with Council supplying equipment. 88 The programme linked with the Community House dated from proposals as early as May 1979, when a public meeting was arranged at Rosebank School to discuss ideas.

Council agreed to fund the project in

Avondale, and the position of co-ordinator was advertised soon afterward.

In late 1979, the first

Family Day Care co-ordinator Bronwyn Banks announced plans also to set up a “shoppers crèche,” operating on Friday each week, at the Community Centre at St Georges Road. 91

At the house itself, mothers with children were always welcome, but the Society did ask for offers of help from people willing to sit with the children, so the mothers were free to take part in activities at the house.

In April 1980 however, it was proposed to add a pre-fabricated building to the

Community House to provide child-care facilities on the site. 93 At least one of two “multi-purpose” pre-fabs was constructed at the rear of 97 Rosebank Road, and opened in July 1979, 94 possibly built by Carrington Tech students,

allowing the Community House to expand activities to community

classes, exercise groups, and meetings. The first reference found to a free crèche onsite was March 1982, open Tuesday and Friday mornings “to mind your children while you go shopping or you catch the macramé, crochet, liquid embroidery or other groups.” Banks and a helper,
97 96

This was operated by Bronwyn

possibly after shifting the shoppers’ creche from St Georges Road.

By 1983, the Tuesday and Friday morning sessions had developed into established playgroups, with mothers invited to assist with various maintenance projects associated with the groups’ operation. 98 The mothers contributed by making covers for the sandpits, and taking trips with the children. By the end of 1983, there was only a Friday morning playgroup.

In July 1984, it was announced that a

donation-basis shoppers’ crèche would once again operate at the Community House on Thursday mornings, 100 run by a qualified paid childcare worker (likely organised in conjunction with Council, but apparently the Rosebank Community House Society agreed to employ staff). From August 1984, the cost was set at $1 per hour per child, 101 then reverted back to donation basis later that month. In February 1985, charges were reinstituted on an hourly basis maximum $2 per family, but extended to both Tuesday and Thursday mornings. set at $1 per hour from June 1985.
103 102

The cost of attending playgroup on Friday mornings was

By 1988 two part-time early childhood coordinators employed directly by Council still administering the Family Day Care programme (Council assuming full responsibility from 1986) 104 were based at 99 Rosebank Road, along with Plunket and the community adviser. 105 Around July 1988, the Community House advertised “Quality Childcare … Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9-12pm, $2 an hour or $5 a morning (morning tea provided). All Ages.” 106

A new community centre for Avondale
In June 1986 came news that Council intended to borrow money for the construction of a community centre in Avondale.

This was expected to be raised over the 1987-1988 and 1988-1989 financial

years, to develop the Rosebank Road site.

In November 1987 the Council’s Property Develop-

ment Manager recommended to Council that the site at 97-101 Rosebank Road was the best site for a community centre, but that “the land at 1959-1969 Great North Road could be developed to provide for some services such as a CAB and Traffic Patrol base which need a prominently visible site.” 109

In this period, the St Ninians Church building was taken over by Auckland Council in 1987.


became part of the community complex at St Georges Road, and would become incorporated with the new community centre administration from 1990 to 2010.

By 1988, the old community hall at St Georges Road was being apparently being managed by the Rosebank Community House’s committee, as agents for the Community Development Division.

Approval for the construction of the new community centre at Rosebank Road was given by Council in late 1988. 112 More funding was required by mid 1989, and this was approved by Council. 113 The Avondale Community Centre Society, in abeyance since it was incorporated in 1979, was revived “to give local input” to a management committee for the new facility. A public meeting was to be arranged in the old public hall to discuss changes to the society’s constitution. 114

The pre-fab crèche at the rear of the Rosebank Community House was removed and transported to Waterview to serve as part of a hall, apparently for Waterview School. 115 J Griffin in his 1988 report had suggested that if the Community House’s crèche building had been retained, it would have required extending if it was turned into a child care centre “with a need to subsidise its running costs to the tune of approximately $40,000 per annum at current levels.” functioning crèche at St Ninians.
117 116

It was temporarily replaced by a

Some form of the continuation of an early childhood centre,

whether a crèche or a more formal preschool, seems to have been in mind as far as the Community Development Division of Auckland City Council was concerned. Clinton Savage in his 1988 report on the planned community centre and state of community facilities at Avondale wrote “The Citizens

Advice Bureau, Family Day Care, Plunket and the Community Adviser are seen as complimentary to the activities that occur in a community centre and should be allocated space in the new facility.” He envisaged, included in the proposed plans for the new community centre, both a room for the existing Family Day Care programme, housing two workers and administrative equipment; and a community crèche for up to 25 children, open to both centre users and the general public. “The provision of a child care centre in Avondale is seen as a priority,” he wrote. “This is set out in part one of the Child Care Report of April 1988. The report sets out the need for a Child Care Centre to be incorporated within the complex catering for 25 children aged 2-5 and 8 children under 2 years old. The Child Care Adviser recommends that the building be separate from the community centre yet part of the same site.”

Indeed, in 1988 the Child Care Report had identified that at least 30% of pre-

schoolers citywide were on waiting lists for various programmes, and recommended that “all new community centres should contain full childcare facilities and older ones should be upgraded to Department of Education standards.” 119

Savage saw the new community centre’s programmes and activities as not only an amalgamation of those taking place at that point at the Rosebank Community House and the Community Hall on St Georges Road, but with additional opportunities due to increased size:

“Creche Early Childhood Playgroups Casual ‘drop in’ and socialising activities Child care Recreation – judo, karate, dance tuition, indoor bowls, pre-school dance, pre-school music, keep fit, aerobics, children’s gym, after school recreation, school holiday programmes Health education – touch for health, ante natal classes, family planning, preventative seminars Women’s groups – health, fitness, support Plunket groups Senior citizens activities Information seminars Life skills workshops – parenting, budgeting, relationships Information – CAB, Plunket, community adviser, family day care advisers Pacific Island pre-school information and advice Arts – development opportunities for both the performing and visual arts. Displays, exhibitions, classes. Large community meetings Community groups for activities or just meetings.” 120

Plan of “Scheme 4”, one of 6 designs for the proposed community centre. Community Development Committee papers, ACC 217, Auckland Council Archives

On 15 March 1989, the Community Development Committee accepted a prepared design brief, and received six sketch plan proposals. These were displayed for a week from 1 May that year at Avondale Library. At a public meeting held on 7 May, chaired by Councillor Suzanne Sinclair, submissions and informal comments were made and referred on. The selection panel met on 10 May, considering the submissions, and selected a design by Council’s own architectural division, designated Scheme 4.

This was more or less the final shape of the 1990 community centre, with the

crèche joined to the structure of the building, not as a separate building as had been recommended in 1988. In June 1989, however, with cost estimates for the new community centre starting to rise to $890,000 – compared with the approved level of $700,000-$750,000 – it was proposed to amend Scheme 4, cutting out one of the “wings” in the plan. A proposed solution was the elimination of the crèche wing, in favour of retaining the existing crèche pre-fab on-site. design of Scheme 4 remained intact.

However, essentially the

In February 1990, construction of the new community centre at 97-99 Rosebank Road was well underway, the other villa at 101 Rosebank Road removed for part of the main car park. The Rosebank Community House was in the process of winding up, and about to transfer funds to the revived Avondale Community Centre Society, along with their records.

In September, the old

Society asked that these funds be used towards purchasing equipment for the crèche.


There had

been “a slight hold up with foundations when a swamp was found,” 125 something which harked back to the less than optimistic reports regarding the site’s drainage from the late 1940s. A build up of surface water alongside pathways in the winter of 1990 meant alterations needed to be done. 126 Even in August, when the Centre Society had moved in, they recorded in their minutes: “After the very heavy rain last night serious deficiencies were found in the drainage around the centre. This caused flooding inside the building. Remedial work is being carried out, but the question remains about the damage caused to carpets and fittings.” 127

The Centre Society administered the St Ninians Hall, the altered former St Ninians Church, as well as the St Georges Hall. They employed a centre co-ordinator (Judith Kuypers, the last co-ordinator for Rosebank Community House), as well as oversaw the crèche there.
129 128

Once the Centre Society

moved into the new community centre, the crèche there operated 3 mornings a week, with a co-ordinator, a paid trained assistant and paid untrained assistant. transferred back to Council. The St Georges Hall was

The new Avondale Community Centre opened 15 September 1990.

93-95 97 101 99

The Highbury-Rosebank site, 1957. AWHS collection.

1., sighted 30 June 2013 2. J C Dakin, The Community Centre Story, 1979, p. 4 3. Auckland Star, 30 March 1905, 5 July 1906 4. Dakin, pp13-26 5. Dakin, p. 21 6. Dakin, p. 27 7. Dakin, p. 28 8. Auckland Star, 11 November 1938, p. 11 9. Ellesmere Guardian, 13 October 1939, p. 4 10 Evening Post, 18 March 1941, p. 9 11. Auckland Star 23 August 1943, p. 4 12. Auckland Star, 19 September 1944, p. 6 13. Dakin, pp. 30-31 14. Chris Maclean & Jock Phillips, The Sorrow and The Pride, 1990, p. 143 15. Dakin, pp. 42-43 16. Dakin, p. 165 17. Dakin, pp. 177-178 18. Dakin, p. 178 19. Dakin, p. 174 20. Bush, Decently and In Order, p. 381 21. Auckland Star, 14 August 1945, p. 4 22. ACC 275 48-187, Auckland Council Archives 23. Letter to Town Clerk, 1 August 1947, ACC 275 48-187 24. Letter to Town Clerk, 15 August 1947, ACC 275 48-187 25. Letter to Town Clerk, 1 September 1947, ACC 275 48-187 26. Memo from City Engineer to Town Clerk, 19 September 1947, ACC 275 48-187 27. Report by A J Dickson, 21 November 1947, ACC 275 48-187 28. Memo from Town Clerk to City Engineer, 5 March 1948, ACC 275 48-187 29. Letter to Town Clerk, 17 March 1948, ACC 275 48-187 30. Letter to Town Clerk, 4 May 1948, ACC 275 48-187 31. Letter to Town Clerk, 7 May 1948, ACC 275 48-187 32. Letter to Town Clerk, 6 May 1948, ACC 275 48-187 33. Letter to Town Clerk, 18 May 1948, ACC 275 48-187 34. City Engineer’s report, 25 May 1948, ACC 275 48-187 35. Memo from Town Clerk, 9 July 1948, ACC 275 48-187 36. Plan of purchases, ACC 275 48-187 37. NA 214/115, LINZ records 38.NA 214/116, LINZ records 39. Memo to City Solicitor, 9 November 1951, ACC 275 48-187 40. Memo to Town Clerk, 8 July 1959, ACC 275 48-187 41. NA 133/52, LINZ records 42. NA 133/53, LINZ records 43. Letter to Town Clerk, 16 December 1948, ACC 275 48-187 44. Letter to Town Clerk, and plan of purchases ACC 275 48-187 45. Plan of purchases, ACC 275 48-187 46. Memo from City Engineer to Town Clerk, 8 October 1948, ACC 275 48-187 47. City Engineer’s report, 1 December 1949, ACC 275 48-187 48. Letter from Town Clerk to Avondale branch, C&R Association, 4 August 1950, ACC 275 48-187 49. NZ Herald, 29 May 1953 50. Petition dated 25 June 1954, ACC 275 48-187 51. Memo from Town Clerk, 12 April 1956, ACC 275 48-187 52. Undated report, possibly 1958, ACC 275 48-187 53. Avondale Advance, 21 July 1958 54. Report from Finance Committee, 25 January 1960, ACC 275 48-187 55. Memo to Town Clerk, 8 July 1959, ACC 275 48-187 56. Memo from Town Clerk, 27 October 1959, ACC 275 48-187 57. Report from Finance Committee, 25 January 1960, ACC 275 48-187 58. Letter to A E Bailey from Town Clerk, 15 March 1960, ACC 275 48-187

59. Undated letter, ACC 275 48-187 60. Letter received 16 August 1963, ACC 275 48-187 61. Letter from Town Clerk, 28 August 1963, ACC 275 48-187 62. “Proposed Stage 1 development, Library, Car Park and Pensioners Units”, Architectural Division, Department of Works and Services, Auckland City Council, October 1965. ACC 275 48-187 63. Letter to Town Clerk from Dept of Works & Services, 18 March 1966, ACC 275 48-187 64. Letter to Town Clerk, 17 April 1967, ACC 275 48-187 65. Letter from Town Clerk, 1 June 1967, ACC 275 48-187 66. Auckland Scrapbook, Oct 1968, p.51, Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Library 67. Graham Bush, Advance in Order, 1991, p. 145 68. Bush, Advance, p. 212 69. Western Leader, 8 November 1973, p. 3 70. Bush, p. 132 71. Western Leader, 26 November 1974, p. 2 72. Report by Clinton Savage, 21 September 1988, Community Development Committee papers 73. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 14 November 1977, pp.2 & 3, AVO 001, Auckland Council Archives 74. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 14 August 1978, p.4; Action Group meeting notes, in Comm Cmte minutes, 11 September pp. 9-13; Avondale Community Committee minutes, October 1978, p.2 75. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 11 September 1978, pp.6-7 76. Report by Clinton Savage, 21 September 1988, Community Development Committee papers, ACC 217, Auckland Council Archives 77. Report by N G Smith, 29 September 1978, Comm. Cmte minutes. 78. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 13 July 1981, p.2 79. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 8 January 1979, pp. 2-3 80. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 13 August 1979, p.2 81. Community Development Sub-Committee report to Avondale Community Committee, 9 November 1979 82. Avondale Community News, February 1979 83. Western Leader, 7 July 1981, p. 13 84. From collection of news clippings 1978-1989, “History of Community Centre”, AWHS collection. Notes dated 23November 1978 85. Western Leader, 27 March 1979 & 15 May 1979, p. 4 86. Western Leader, 7 July 1981, p. 13 87. Western Leader, 22 May 1979, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 88. Graham Bush, Advance In Order, 1991, p. 217 89. Western Leader, 29 May 1979, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 90. Western Leader, 5 June 1979, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 91. Western Leader, 27 November 1979, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 92. Western Leader, 7 August 1979, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 93. Western Leader, 29 April 1980, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 94. Western Leader, 7 July 1981, p. 13 95. Report by J Griffin to City Secretary, 28 September 1988, Community Development Committee papers, ACC 217, Auckland Council Archives 96. Western Leader, 22 March 1982, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 97. Western Leader, 23 February 1982, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 98. Report, undated, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 99. Western Leader, 13 December 1983, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 100. Western Leader, 3 July 1984, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 101. Western Leader, 7 August 1984, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 102. Western Leader, 11 February 1985, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 103. Western Leader, 26 June 1985, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 104. Graham Bush, Advance in Order, 1991, p.218 105. Report by Clinton Savage, 21 September 1988, ACC 217 106. Undated advertisement, via Rosebank Community House scrapbook 107. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 9 June 1986 108. Letter from Joe Savage, Senior Community Advisor to the Avondale Community Committee, 18 August 1986 109. Report, 4 November 1987 110. Copy of letter to Avondale Business Association from Committee Secretary, Auckland City, 29 May 1987, AWHS files

111. Report by Clinton Savage, 21 September 1988, Community Development Committee papers, ACC 217, Auckland Council Archives 112. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 14 November 1988. 113. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 10 July 1989 114. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 14 August 1989, p. 2 115. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 13 November 1989, p. 2 116. Report by J Griffin to City Secretary, 28 September 1988, ACC 217 117. Avondale Community Committee minutes, 12 March 1990 118. Report by Clinton Savage, 21 September 1988, Community Development Committee papers, ACC 217 119. Graham Bush, Advance in Order, 1991, p. 218 120. Report by Clinton Savage, 21 September 1988, Community Development Committee papers, ACC 217 121. Letter from Clinton Savage to City Secretary, 11 May 1989, ACC 217 122. Letter from Joe Griffin to City Secretary, 14 June 1989, ACC 217 123. Minutes, Avondale Community Centre Society AGM, 26 February 1990, AWHS collection 124. Minutes, ACC Society, 11 September 1990 125. Minutes, ACC Society AGM, 26 February 1990 126. Minutes, ACC Society, 5 July 1990 127. Minutes, ACC Society, 23 August 1990 128. Minutes, ACC Society, 7 June 1990 129. Minutes, ACC Society, 11 September 1990

Doug Ford mural, south (Rosebank Road) side of Avondale Community Centre. Photographed June 2010, by the author.