Hamilton was jam-packed with family-friendly action last weekend with the Christmas Parade, the rugby and more. But in the midst of it all, something momentous happened.
On Saturday afternoon, I was thrilled to attend a ground-breaking ceremony that has been 20 long years in the making. It was the first tangible step in building New Zealand’s first ever Pan Pacific Hub, right here in Kirikiriroa-Hamilton.
The Hub has come about thanks to the work of the Hamilton-based K'aute Pasifika Trust. The concept of a Pacific Hub, providing health services, community support and a whole-of-family wraparound services began with a wonderful woman, Peta Karalus, 20 years ago.
Peta pursued her idea dogmatically, fuelled with passion and a desire to make a positive difference to her community.
That idea has since been picked up Rachel Karalus, Peta’s daughter. Rachel, with the support of her Board and wider team has driven it with the same determination. It’s the kind of determination we often see in Hamilton, as people make things happen in order to benefit our community.
Over time, K’aute Pasifika worked hard to made crucial gains in winning support for their vision. The Trust secured the support of one of our wonderful local philanthropic organisations, Trust Waikato, which provided $2.1 million in funding. They did their own fund-raising as well.
And eventually, the Trust also won the support of the Hamilton City Council. But it wasn’t easy. Three years ago, as Chair of the Community Services Committee at Hamilton City Council, I used my casting vote to enable the Pan Pasifika Hub to use part of the present town belt for their development. I just felt strongly it was the right call. I was supported strongly by Martin Gallagher, who has been an unrelenting advocate for Kaute for years. Sometimes you have good days in politics; that was one of them.
However, what gave me far greater pleasure was in September this year, seeing my WHOLE Council – unanimously – vote to transfer ownership of the bowling club to the Trust. That was a wonderful, day because we are united as a team around this wonderful opportunity.
Instead my colleagues, to their credit, also realised what a positive difference this Hub would make to our community. And they threw their collective weight behind it.
So much so that we followed up our decision to transfer ownership of the bowling club with some strong advocacy to government. I’m proud of the part our Council played in helping get an $8 million grant from the Provincial Growth Fund for this project, over the line.
On Saturday, at short notice, the Trust attracted some big names to the ceremony.
They included Members of Parliament including the Honourable Carmel Sepuloni and the Honourable Aupito William Sio, along with our local MPs.
And we were also joined by members of the Moana Pasifika and Maori All Blacks who were in our city for an exciting game on Saturday night. I even had my picture taken with the legendary Sir Michael Jones, a former All Black and a proud advocate for the Pasifika community. There are sometimes perks to being the Mayor!
The fact that Sir Michael and others were there on Saturday indicates a deep and very genuine support for the project across all peoples as well across the political spectrum. Because, importantly, the Hub will be a place for everyone, not just Pacific peoples.
On Saturday, I told those gathered that our city was incredibly proud of this project – a first for New Zealand. I thanked Rachel and her team for what they have achieved already….and for what their efforts will achieve in the years ahead.
I talked about inclusion, connectedness, family, community, determination, positive action, determination and old-fashioned hard graft.
I was very grateful on Saturday to be part of a momentous day. I couldn’t think of a better group of people to celebrate with and am grateful for being able to share in the ceremony.