The nation’s smallest rugby union now has a brand-new professional office set-up after a host of people pitched in to help.
Following years of planning, Ngati Porou East Coast Rugby Union is to open new premises in Ruatoria.
Union chief executive Cushla Tangaere-Manuel said Mitre 10, which sponsors the Heartland Championship, helped put the finishing touches on the two-year project.
“For a long time I have been working out how we were going to fund this,” she said. “It started with a joint-venture with EIT. They agreed to provide the labour for free and it was also supported by NZCT (New Zealand Community Trust), The Lion Foundation, Lottery Community, Te Runanganui O Ngati Porou and local sponsors Larsen Sawmilling, JR Fencing and Launch Construction.”
Mitre 10 joined the team after Ms Tangaere-Manuel met the new Mitre 10 Gisborne owner.
“It was really great. Mitre 10 have come on board to help with a few finishing touches. They are building our deck and installing a kitchenette.”
The building is expected to be fully operational in a couple of weeks.
“We now have a building that reflects our business,” said Ms Tangaere-Manuel. “It is our responsibility to reinvest into rugby and we do that happily. It’s great to have the opportunity to invest in what is an asset for the union moving forward and to have somewhere nice for our staff.
“Our old office was basically a shack but it was still a community hub. Now, we have a more comfortable and better-resourced community hub.”
The old office was formerly a Presbyterian church. It had “good bones” but was clad with corrugated iron, so was freezing in winter and scorching in summer.
“We had to boil water to wash dishes and cook on a portable element. It was like camping.”
With a team of three full-time staff — and another part-time position soon to be added — NPEC services the needs of 700 registered players, nine clubs, seven representative teams, and all high schools in the area.
The union covers from Whangaparaoa in the north to Pouawa in the south — an expanse of nearly 200 kilometres.
Despite the Mitre 10 Gisborne store still being under construction, and the business operating from a temporary location, it was clear the NPEC office project was a ‘must-do’, Mitre 10 Gisborne owner operator Geoff Taylor said.
“Rugby keeps the East Coast community connected. After seeing the old building they’d been working in for so many years, we knew straight away we could help. Rugby is valued highly here and NPEC should have an office building to match.”
With community support and grant funding, the new office was built labour-costs-free by EIT apprentices last year, and a new fence was built by NPEC player and fencer Jack Richardson.
Mitre 10 Gisborne donated around $20,000 of materials for a new kitchenette, deck and concrete pathway, with Mitre 10 builder Stan Scott project managing the work.
Local builder and NPEC team manager Lorne Goldsmith also volunteered his team from Launch Construction to support the build.
Only two things are left for NPEC to tick off the list — new furniture and an official opening event.
The annual pre-season Queen’s Birthday Weekend clash between Poverty Bay and NPEC on Saturday attracted about 2000 people to an event that also celebrated 20 years since NPEC won the Heartland Championship.