25 year anniversary of Blockhouse Bay Library
“Why can’t we have our own library in Blockhouse Bay?” Merle Martin asked. “It’s a pain in the neck going down to the Avondale Library.”
That conversation kicked off a six-year battle by the Blockhouse Bay community eventually resulting in a new library in their village.
This month marks 25 years since the Blockhouse Bay library opened on 24 February 1995.
Hundreds of people turned out for the Mardi Gras party on the village green. Mainstreet was closed for the evening sit down dinner. It was a victory celebration after a massive David and Goliath battle that was filled with political intrigue and many twists and turns.
More than anything, the new library was the result of visionaries in the community who doggedly fought on for years. They mobilised massive community support that eventually wore down and overwhelmed political opposition.
It’s worth noting that the library was the first significant council-owned building in the Bay.
Prior to the battle for the library, the community had a trial run of sorts, getting the historic Armanasco House moved from a development site in Taylor Street to the village green. This was invaluable training for the community leaders in dealing with Auckland City Council. They realised that they needed to take a long-term view of the costs and benefits of a project.
There was also the red tape to deal with. For example, it was originally envisaged that Armanasco House would be sited close to mainstreet, behind the toilet block. However, there were zoning issues as that is reserve land. It was easier to site it at the back as that was designated for a playground.
The comment from Merle Martin to Robin Barnaby initiated the movement. Merle was a volunteer at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre. Robin was the manager and the first paid employee at the centre.
Robin went to her boss, Jim Gilbert, who was the board chair of the centre. He gave the go-ahead to start a campaign and they initiated a petition to council for a library.
Jim did a lot of work but preferred to be behind the scenes. Robin was vivacious and enthusiastic. She reached out to every school and community group she could think of. It was a long journey over the years, but they kept building momentum, eventually gathering hundreds of signatures in support.
Jim visited various council officers and slowly started to get traction. Jim got local councillor Brian Maude on board. The only Avondale Community Board member who actually lived in Blockhouse Bay was Tony Mitchell. He became another strong advocate for the library.
By mid-1991 Jim was in a media campaign for the library. A $250,000 council budget was proposed to get the project investigated and underway when a local city councillor shot it down. It was reported that Ms Sinclair “Does not want to spend $250,000 on stage one of the library project this year.”
“Where there is a lot of unemployment, our priority has to be to keep rates down,” she said.
Mr Gilbert responded, “People outside the Avondale Ward can justifiably say we do not want a library because our councillor is not fighting for it!”
By 1993 $500,000 had been allocated for stage one of the library and that’s when all hell broke loose!
Eastern Bays councillor Ross Jones suggested a cut of $450,000 to the budget, accusing the library supporters of being disorganised and not even knowing any details about what they wanted. Mr Jones suggested setting up a library in a corner of the community centre instead.
That criticism galvanised the library supporters to action. They developed a draft concept plan at their own expense. An architect came up with a plan for a classic style library that was sympathetic to Armanasco House which was already on the village green.
In May a presentation by Jim to the Avondale Community Board didn’t go smoothly. Chairwoman Veronica Egan said the board was sick of hearing about the issue and wished Mr Gilbert would be more patient. She said that constant criticism wasn’t going to get him anywhere, and if it had not been for the board and Councillor Brian Maude, residents would not have made it this far.
Because Auckland city librarians had also come out in opposition against the project, Jim Gilbert said in his submission to the board that the librarians were “incompetent and unresponsive to community requirements.” It was reported at the time that board member Lorraine Wilson took offense. “Are you aware that I’m a professional librarian?” she asked. “It’s somewhat intemperate to put reports like this before us.”
Jim Gilbert responded (possibly somewhat insensitively) “I don’t particularly care what you might think. I’m just tabling the feelings of Blockhouse Bay people.”
When the board moved to accept the submission, Lorraine Wilson wanted it recorded in the minutes that she did not wish to receive it.
Suddenly opposition appeared on all sides. The business case to council included Lynfield in the catchment to help get the numbers up. Green Bay couldn’t be included because at the time it was part of a different council – Waitakere City. At the eleventh hour with the prize of a library on offer, Lynfield resident and veteran politician David Hay made a counterattack to win the battle and seize the prize. He said Lynfield had suitable land available while Blockhouse Bay did not. This blindsided the Blockhouse Bay group because in all the negotiations it was clearly understood to have the Bay as the future site of the library.
Lynfield shopkeeper Eunice Teskey fronted the counter bid. A petition was organised, and statistical data compiled. It was a serious threat.
The librarians mounted a spirited opposition as well, advocating a beefed-up mobile library service. Head librarian Barbara Burbeck fought the proposal tooth and nail.
At the first meeting with council at the community centre, the bomb shell was dropped that Auckland City Council was not building any more libraries! Bigger and better (and fewer) libraries was the policy. Bizarrely, at one stage Mayor Les Mills stated that community libraries were the way of the future, not super libraries. He went so far as to suggest that if the size of the proposed library was scaled back, then both Lynfield and Blockhouse Bay could each have a library!
Avondale Community Board member Tony Mitchell said, “All the council knew it was for Blockhouse Bay, and its approval was for one at Blockhouse Bay. The officer’s report had only included the catchment area of Lynfield to increase the viability of a library in Blockhouse Bay.”
Mr Mitchell was reported to have claimed that the Lynfield lobby was pushing its own interests ahead of the wider community. “I think that their option is a desperate attempt by the businesses of Lynfield to increase their catchment of potential customers. I believe that a large number of Lynfield people regard Blockhouse Bay as a community of interest.”
As a result of the infighting, both areas almost missed out altogether. At a recreation committee meeting, chairwoman Astrid Malcolm proposed dropping the whole project in favour of a revamped mobile library. That motion narrowly lost 6-5.
Pressure was building and Auckland City Council was heading towards a vote in November to decide whether the library would be sited in Lynfield or Blockhouse Bay. In order to demonstrate support for the Bay, Jim organised a public meeting just a week out from the council vote.
340 people turned out to support the Blockhouse Bay proposal. This made a huge impression on the politicians. Local MP Jonathan Hunt said it was the biggest public meeting that he had ever attended in the area.
Community Board member Lorrain Wilson had apparently got over the last encounter with Jim Gilbert. She said that it would be “an exceedingly foolish” council which ignored the massive turnout at the meeting. Ms Wilson said “We have no council-built facility in Blockhouse Bay and it is time we had one. I am sure many of you use the mobile library service, but we need more, and it is our turn.”
It was decided at the public meeting to attend en masse the special meeting of council a week later to support the Blockhouse Bay bid. Preparations were swift. A bendy bus was chartered, and the event advertised. The handwritten list of names of those going and whether they were going on the bus or privately still exists.
On the night of the council meeting people gathered at the communithy centre to board the bus. Everyone was handed a yellow protest card taped to a plastic knife as a handle. The 70-seater bus was packed with standing room only.
At the Auckland Town Hall the protesters made their way up to the public gallery of the council chambers. The 140 Blockhouse Bay people totally outnumbered the handful of Lynfield supporters. It was standing room only, and they made a real impression when they all held up their yellow signs.
The councillors were not thrilled at having so many people at their special meeting to consider the library, some even being rather rude.
The group leaders presented their figures supporting the library, complete with an architects plan showing how a library could look on the village green.
As the meeting wore on, children were getting restless and tempers were fraying. The yellow signs kept getting waved in the air. Councillors called for a supper break. The smell of coffee and savouries wafting into the chamber only made the protesters more restless.
When the meeting resumed the debate was still going back and forth. Finally a councillor blurted out “Give them their library and get the buggers out of here!”
The motion was put and passed 19 to 3. The council had been completely overwhelmed by people power.
City librarian Barbara Burbeck went up to Tony Mitchell and shook his hand. She said that though she had opposed the new library, now that it had been voted in, she would do everything in her power to ensure that the Bay got the best library possible.
Robin Barnaby is reported as saying “People power was the bid difference between us and Lynfield. It was obvious to councillors that ours was a community effort. For much of the last seven years we have felt that we were not being listened to. Now we have been, and it is because the community has never faltered in the belief that we needed - and deserved - a library.”
By mid-1994 the plans had been drawn up, consents obtained, and construction was ready to commence. The design by architect firm Andrews Scott Cotton was completely different from the draft proposal. The open courtyard was designed to bring the nearby park into the library. Lots of windows were included to let in natural light.
The opening celebration on 24 February 1995 ran from 7pm to 11pm. After the official opening by Mayor Les Mills a Mardi Gras parade led by the Guggemusik carnival band and other entertainers including Sunshine book characters. Chic Littlewood MC-ed the various acts performing on the village green stage. There were skits from local school children as well as Scottish, medieval, Tahitian and Spanish dancing.
It seemed like the whole of Blockhouse Bay had turned out. Mainstreet was closed to traffic and transformed into a giant outdoor banquet hall with people seated at tables and chairs across the street.
When the library opened for business, it was the first library in the country to have a CD-rom computer for information technology. Library Manager Kay Lally said she was pleased that the library was finally open.
The woman who got the ball rolling, Merle Martin, said, “This is something we have needed for a very long time, so we are all very excited and pleased about the opening of this wonderful community facility.”
Next time you visit the Blockhouse Bay Library or go past it, reflect on people power and strong community spirit, because this really is the library that the people fought for and won.
Blockhouse Bay Library statistics:
Collection size for Blockhouse Bay:
With only a few weeks to go until the big event, Blockhouse Bay School is preparing to host a large group of ex-pupils, staff and parents at this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
On Friday 20th March, attendees will be given the opportunity to see the school in action with guided tours and the chance to catch up with others who are here to mark the occasion. Ex-Board and staff members are invited to an after dinner catch up in Te Manawa, the newly renovated original classroom and office.
On Saturday 21st March, an official celebration ceremony will be held at 11.00am for all who wish to attend and will include entertainment from children’s performance groups. The guided tours will continue, and this will be followed by lunch in the performing arts centre (Te Whau).
Then attendees will be given the opportunity to catch up with each other and swap stories about the highs (and hopefully not too many lows) of attending or working at Blockhouse Bay School.
There’s still time to register for this event.
Simply go to the school’s website www.blockhousebay.school.nz, click on Information in the top right-hand corner, and click on Expression of Interest to fill out your details. We will then send you all the information you need to register for whichever event you wish to attend.
Alternatively, please phone the school office on 09 6279940 and we will do this for you.
Well, call it a safari or a car rally – either way you’re bound for a day of adventure for the whole family when you join the Lions on their 12th Annual Wild Westie Fun Car Rally!
Since 2009 the Blockhouse Bay-Lynfield Lions Club have opened up the ‘Wild West’ of Auckland to dozens of families, couples, friends, car enthusiasts and adventure-seekers, by taking them down roads many have never driven, to destinations of incomparable wild beauty and historic significance, in an annual event which never fails to become the genesis of many a tall tale.
The Rally is a leisurely drive with a competitive edge. No, not a race, but the cryptic itinerary quiz will surely test the navigational skills of your support crew and help participants spot and enjoy the places passed along the way. And if you find yourself going astray, don’t worry; the final destination is inside your sealed envelope.
The BBQ will be fired up for lunch at the mystery destination, with sausages and onions supplied by the Lions to compliment your BYO picnic and refreshments.
The winning entrants are chosen from the most correct answers, with deductions for kilometres gained or lost in travel. Token prizes are awarded, and it’s all in fun. And if you really want to get in the spirit, come dressed as a Westie!
When: Sunday 22nd March, 9am log in
Duration: 2-3 hours, depending on navigation skills and driving conditions
Where: Departing venue TBA upon registration
Cost: Adults $15, under 12 free.
Register: Online at www.bhbl-lions.org/car-rally
(Early registration is appreciated! Closes Wed 18th March)
As always, the Rally is a fundraiser to help the Blockhouse Bay-Green Bay Community Patrol maintain its vigil in the Bay areas to combat crime and vandalism.
Kite festival 2020 was held recently for the fourth time at Eastdale Reserve, Avondale. It is celebrated in various parts of India and known as Uttrayana or Makar Sankranti. Uttarayan is the period when Sun travels from South to North which is also known as Makar Sankranti.
Although it mainly has a strong following in the Indian community, many other people also enjoyed the festival which was open to the public. Around 5,000 people were estimated to have participated. There were footstalls, cultural programs, face painting, drawing competitions and rides for kids. It really was a fun day out.
After the people had enjoyed kite flying, there were some kites left on the trees in the surrounding areas. The organisers, Viashnav Parivar NZ (VPNZ), received some complaints about these kites. This was a problem last year also, which was resolved by a clean-up in the week following the event. The volunteers tidied the grounds the next day and followed up by walking around the streets checking no kites were left.
In addition, this year, VPNZ have engaged professional arborists to remove all kites from the trees to the satisfaction of Auckland Council. Lost kites were an issue last year with some residents commenting on social media that some kites have been blown into the mangroves and that the strings don’t break down.
There was also a safety issue when a cyclist on Eastdale Road got “clotheslined” by string which startled him!
VPNZ wants to assure Avondale Community and residents of commitment to protect the environment.
Get out there and get involved!
Nowadays, with so much that you can do online at a time that suits you, there seems less and less reason to get out of the house and join in an activity with a group of like-minded people. Yet for our physical, social and mental well-being, face to face communication and outdoor activity cannot be beaten.
We invited clubs and organisations to feature this month because of our own experience of clubs and our belief that they enrich our communities immeasurably.
Our children have grown up travelling the back blocks of New Zealand in ancient military vehicles as part of our membership of the NZ Military Vehicle Club. Some had their first driving experiences in WWII Jeeps. They have made friends in a club that spans four generations. We would never have enjoyed these benefits just sitting at home.
We are also really grateful that someone recommended Scouts for our active twin boys when they were 10. It’s an incredibly good way to experience teamwork, active participation, outdoors and values.
You and your children have lots of options to fill your valuable time. What excites and interests you? Every single interest, sport and hobby imaginable has a group that does it.
So, get out there and get involved!
Connecting People and Place
EcoMatters Environment Trust supports the community with the knowledge and tools to restore nature, reduce waste, ride and fix bikes, and live more sustainably.
We have a wide range of regular, hands-on environmental volunteer sessions to suit all interests, right across West Auckland and beyond.
For direct connection with nature, there are weekly planting, community nursery and organic gardening sessions where both regular and one-off volunteers are welcome.
Our resource recovery depot is looking for people to assist with its waste minimisation projects, all with the goal of reusing and recycling items, rather than sending them to landfill.
For those who are more mechanically minded, we now have three community Bike Hubs across Auckland, in New Lynn, Henderson and Glen Innes. Volunteers here help restore bikes and teach visitors basic bike maintenance skills.
To find out more visit www.ecomatters.org.nz/volunteer
Girl Guiding: Growing Great Girls
Central West Guiding covers Green Bay, Blockhouse Bay, Avondale, New Windsor, Lynfield, Hillsborough and Mt Roskill. We have grown so much that we are opening a brand-new guide unit and we now have room for girls of all ages and stages to join. We have room for Pippins (aged 5-6), Brownies (aged 7-8), Guides (aged 9-12) and Rangers (aged 12-17).
Our weekly meetings include a range of activities designed to challenge, inspire and empower our young women of today and our current and future leaders. The girls get to experience many engaging and fun activities, from camping and orienteering, to building robots, planting trees and scavenger hunts, that help them to grow and develop their innate potential. To find out more about what our Guides get up to, go to www.girlguidingnz.org.nz/what-girls-actually-do-in-girlguiding
If you'd like to get involved with us please email email@example.com and we can help you get started.
Friendship, enthusiasm and service
The Inner Wheel Club of Mt Roskill is a small group of enthusiastic ladies known for their friendliness and service to others and is part of the NZ-wide and the International Inner Wheel organization, one of the largest women’s service voluntary organisations in the world.
Personal service is a top priority and members enjoy working together to find many ways to carry out projects in their local community.
Fun and friendship are important to our club and members come from all over Auckland to our meetings held at Selwyn Heights Village, 42 Herd Road, Royal Oak on the 4th Thursday of each month at 7.30pm.
Enthusiastic ladies wishing to join us can be assured of a very warm welcome.
Lions: “We Serve”
Guided by the motto “We Serve”, Lions are a group of people who together help make local and global communities a better place.
Since 1977 Blockhouse Bay Lynfield Lions Club has been a local chapter of Lions Clubs International which has delivered 103 years of service and has 47,000 clubs in 200+ countries.
In their 42 years the club has delivered countless valued community projects such as child mobility clinics and diabetes awareness and screening, supported youth projects and leadership, and sponsored the Community Patrol with proceeds from car rallies.
Members enjoy satisfaction and happiness from making a difference in the world with ‘action not words’, and enjoy camaraderie, fun and networking as part of an international family.
Further information about our Lions Club and Lions Club International can be found at www.bhbl-lions.org/membership as well as details about how to become a member and experience these benefits for yourself.
Become confident and speak freely
POWERtalk Waitakere invites membership from anyone who is interested in receiving coaching in effective speaking and communication skills, whether needing to address a group, or to speak in a one-on-one situation.
Our meetings provide a supportive and friendly environment in which you can practice giving speeches while receiving constructive feedback and valuable advice from some of the best speakers in the country.
Make 2020 the year you do something great for yourself. Joining a POWERtalk club is the best way for you to learn how to become confident and to overcome fears of speaking in front of others.
Don't be shy! No matter what your age, gender or nationality, we welcome you to visit us at our meetings on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays each month. 7.30pm, New Lynn Community Centre, 45 Totara Ave.
All enquiries to Sheridan: ph (09)8287999 or 0272 828799.
SCOUTS: It’s not just knots
Scouting is not just about knots, woggles and big shorts, and it's not just for boys either! There are approximately 16,000 young people in Scouting in New Zealand, spread across five age-related sections: Keas, Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and Rovers. Each section has its own balanced programme of activities, badges and awards.
A time-honoured organisation run by passionate, committed leaders and parents for kids aged 5 – 19, Scouts is a wholesome, tried-and-true outlet for your kids’ creative energy, in a safe, supervised, yet challenging environment.
We are fortunate to have several excellent local Scout troops – each with a slightly different ‘flavour’, with both land- and sea-based to choose from. There is definitely one that will feel just right for your family.
New Lynn Sea Scouts: Contact Andrew 027 693 9756 newlynn.seascouts.org.nz
Iona Scouts (Blockhouse Bay): Contact Colin 021 208 1103 www.ionascouts.webs.com
Western Bays Sea Scouts (Lynfield): Contact Suzanne 09-627-3018 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tramping in the great outdoors
The West Auckland District Tramping Club is a community of around 70 men and women of diverse backgrounds and ages who enjoy the natural environment of the great outdoors.
Tramps are scheduled for most weekends, alternating between Saturday and Sunday and the occasional weekend away. The walks vary in difficultly from easy to challenging.
Guest speakers entertain us at our monthly club meetings, and we enjoy social events such as themed potluck dinners, movies/theatre nights, bowling and night trots, about every 6 weeks.
Joining WADTC is not just about tramping – it’s an opportunity to build fitness, make new friends and experience the great outdoors in areas you may never otherwise visit.
Newbies are always welcome - phone the tramp leader first to find out what to expect and what to bring. The club usually carpools from Glen Eden. Details of upcoming trips can be found on the club’s website www.westaucklandtrampingclub.co.nz.
The fastest game on two feet
The Wildcats Lacrosse Club is a small club in West Auckland offering lacrosse for men and women of all ages and abilities.
One of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and growing rapidly here in Aotearoa, our goals as a club are to champion the growth of the game in West Auckland, and also to break down all financial and social barriers that potentially prevent young people from playing.
We run mixed gender social lacrosse open days and tournaments at Western Districts Hockey Club based at Avondale College, as well as providing all the necessary safety gear and training opportunities for people of all abilities. We also have Development and Premier teams for both men and women, coached by experienced former and current NZ Representative players and coaches.
Learn more about lacrosse, our events, and how you can get involved on our website - www.sporty.co.nz/wildcatslacrosseclub
Come dine with us!
The Western Districts Womens Dinner Club was started in 1974 by a lady who saw the need for women to be able to have an evening out and meet other women. Of course, since 1974 times have changed but some of our current members remember this being a highlight of their month.
These days we have ladies attending from all walks of life, retired through to those in full time work.
We meet on the second Tuesday of each month for a set menu dinner at Bricklane Restaurant, followed by a speaker. Subjects range from archaeology in Egypt to local lawyers; beekeeping to climbing mountains in Nepal, with an entertainer for our anniversary and Christmas.
Ladies, come and join us one evening, to ‘try us out’ and see if this is a group you would like to belong to.
For more information contact Anne 021-2933833 or Maureen 021-0318856
Playcentre: it’s your village
At Playcentre, you’re involved with your child’s learning; playing with them and alongside them. Encourage your children to interact with others while you meet other parents and educators. Build life-long friendships and become part of a fun, vibrant village where community and a sense of belonging is at the heart of everything we do.
Catering to families with children aged 0-6 years, Playcentre focuses on child-led learning, with a variety of play experiences such as building, baking, painting, dressing up, singing and sand and water play.
Each Playcentre in New Zealand is cooperatively managed by parents, keeping fees very low. Parents are also can access free Playcentre courses to help support their child’s learning.
There’s a Playcentre near you: Blockhouse Bay, New Windsor, Mt Albert, Hillsborough, Titirangi, Glen Eden - visit www.playcentre.org.nz to learn more.
You’re welcome to visit to see if Playcentres are right for you.
Tennis: what’s not 2-love?
Tennis is a great sport for maintaining health, fitness, strength and agility. It also has good social and psychological benefits and the whole family can play.
Lynfield Tennis Club is opposite Countdown on The Avenue, and offers six floodlit courts, modern club rooms, volley board, plenty of car parking and a fully licensed bar. We cater for all standards of play, from beginners to advanced, with social play, club championships and interclub.
Our experienced club coach provides quality coaching for junior players and beginners, and is also available to help senior players improve their game and gain confidence.
We also have a strong midweek tennis section running on Wednesday mornings. Social play with opportunities to play in tournaments if you’d like.
We’d love to see you at our club - why not come and have a go? Go to www.lynfieldtennis.co.nz to find out more.