TWENTY-plus years ago Wilson James helped devise, plan and build the Awakeri Events Centre – a job that took five years, and he thought his work was done.
Then he found himself on the committee as president – for what he thought would be a short stint to get the hall up and running.
Twenty-one years later he is still committee president.
“There are 12 members on the committee. Five of us have been on the committee for 21 years. I think they are all ready to step down,” he said.
The only problem is no one else seems to want the job.
Mr James and the committee have called a public meeting this Thursday at 7.30pm at the hall to solve this dilemma. They want other volunteers to step up and join the committee, some “younger blood to refresh it”.
The hall is the hub of the Awakeri community. Awakeri School neighbours it and uses it almost daily. Sports groups use it. It is the home of Plains Rangers soccer club. It’s the spot to play badminton. It is also hired out for events, weddings, functions and meetings.
The hall has a bar, a commercial kitchen, a large gymnasium and fully furnished lounge.
Its point of difference from other halls is that it is a co-operative, owned by its 40 or so members. It is also valued at $1.9 million and is “a huge asset for Awakeri”.
“It pays for itself,” said Mr James.
The land it stands on is owned by the Whakatane District Council. The concern, said Mr James, was that if there was no one to run the hall, the council might take over.
“But it will be a community decision whether we want it to close … that is what the meeting will be about.
“It is not our place to keep it going. The wider district uses it and we need some younger people to come through …
“If the community wants a local hall, they need to be a part of it.”
Plains Rangers soccer coach and Awakeri School teacher Barry Hawkes said he hoped to see the hall continue running.
He said the committee had built the hall and run it very well for 20 years, but he feared it would be hard to find volunteers to step up for the committee role as families were so busy with work and activities.
“Every organisation is finding it hard to find people,” he said.