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Community Board Honours Pioneer’s Wishes

Community Board Honours Pioneer’s Wishes

Howick Community Board has made a wise decision and done the right thing by honouring the will of an early pioneer, says Howick Councillor Jami-Lee Ross.

Mr Ross’ comments come after Monday night’s Community Board meeting where Board members recommended rebuilding the small Maori learning house, Torere, in the Emilia Maud Nixon Garden of Memories after it was destroyed by fire last year.

“Emilia Maud Nixon was one of Howick’s early pioneers whose vision was to bring two cultures together to live and work in harmony. She dedicated her later life to creating a garden for Howick to enjoy and she wanted it to continue as a cultural education centre once she passed on.

“In recent years 16,000 children and new settlers have had the chance to experience the great learning programs being run in the Garden of Memories each year. These programs have even been so successful that the Ministry of Education has decided to give an annual grant of $150,000 so they can continue into the future. It is astounding that some people wanted to stop the good work happening in the Garden of Memories and deny children the opportunity to learn about the cultural history of New Zealand.”

Mr Ross says he is concerned that some Community Board members deliberately deceived Howick residents with false claims about hidden agendas, and were not up front about their alternative plan which could run into the millions.

“The same Board members who were prepared to run rough-shod over Miss Nixon’s wishes were also suggesting that ratepayers should foot the bill for a large Marae to be built at Pigeon Mountain. Unfortunately this would also mean throwing away $187,000 in insurance and the $150,000 Ministry of Education grant. The cost of building a large Marae will be extremely high and when all costs are added up, ratepayers could be looking at well over a million dollars.

“Since that terrible fire last year I have been working with community representatives to find a way to rebuild Torere in the Garden of Memories cost effectively, exactly the same size as the previous building. Despite the negative efforts of some people involved in the project, I am confident the recommended design is the best option for Torere to continue as an educational centre for the benefit of the Howick community.”

Mr Ross says that rebuilding Torere in the Garden of Memories is following the wishes of Howick residents, pointing to a 2001 management plan which was publicly consulted for two years.

“Some people have tried to claim that rebuilding Torere is not what Howick people want and it should be removed. No doubt a small minority of people will always be against anything Maori, but I believe most Howick people are more open minded than that. In actual fact, Miss Nixon wanted her garden to build friendship between both European and Maori cultures.

“The Garden of Memories management plan received considerable public input over two years and through that process Howick residents said they agreed with Torere’s presence. The Manukau City Council has also showed commitment to continuing the wishes of Miss Nixon by exploring the possibility of replacing her replica Fencible cottage and bridge of friendship.”

Mr Ross says he welcomes the fact that the Howick Community Board has stopped playing games and is now looking towards a positive outcome for everybody. He believes negative comments from some Board members won’t benefit anyone and will only frustrate the community further.

“Miss Nixon wanted her Garden to be used for the education of children and she would surely be delighted with the work that is carried out in her memory. It is unfortunate that a few closed minded people have attempted to destroy the value of the Garden of Memories and derail any progress being made. This Howick icon needs to continue to shine for future generations and rebuilding Torere is central to continuing Emilia Maud Nixon’s wishes.”


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