“If Santa is real, all I am asking is to adjourn the decision until December to give us an opportunity to breathe so we can come back with data and fix up some issues. We want to put our best foot forward.” Wiremu Te Taniwha

Tensions were rife at the November meeting of the Waiheke Local Board as discussions around a $1 lease of the Old Surfdale Post Office came to a head. 

Two very different organisations have been vying to lease the 6 Hamilton Road site for months and, at the meeting, Wiremu Te Taniwha, who was representing Te Rito (the Hope Centre), asked that a decision again be deferred. 

In contrast, the spokesperson for Waiheke Connect, Sophie Poelman pushed for a final decision citing an already drawn-out process.

In their applications, the two groups shared different ideas around how they would use the 10-person space. Waiheke Connect, which is a network of professionals who meet up to connect, learn and co-work, would use it as a vibrant business hub – somewhere for people to co-work and share ideas. 

Three organisations came together to develop the Te Rito application – Waiheke Hope Centre, Ki Waiheke Hapu and Aroha Tours – with plans to use the space as a Maori-led hub for Maori, offering education, training, employment, Maori tourism and social services. 

Wiremu, who enlisted the support of a lawyer during the contentious process, said council’s input around the lease has been “coloured with bias”. He believed that a decision would be made at the December board meeting and was dismayed that the November agenda indicated that the lease would go to Waiheke Connect.

“The board resolved previously to facilitate meetings between the two parties to explore potential synergies and another space nearby, but this hasn’t occurred,” he said at the November meeting last week.

“The report on the agenda is so presumptive with the related attachments only for Waiheke Connect.”

Wiremu, who runs Living Waters and provides emergency accommodation to people in need, said council compliance officers had been called to check on his premises.

“We have come under scrutiny; council’s compliance team came to see us for issues which have been long-standing,” he told the board. “This should not be used against us.”

Wiremu asked that the final lease decision be put on hold, and said Te Rito was happy to collaborate and work with Waiheke Connect. • Sophie Boladeras

Full story in this week’s Gulf News… Out Now!!!

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