Nelson Whakatū organisations united in call for a space where our community can connect

15/09/2022 12:43pm

Leaders across Nelson Whakatū have strongly endorsed the need for city investment that builds greater community connections and creates greater opportunities for success.

“Over the past few months, our project director, Alice Heather, and the Council project team have met with a variety of leaders across Nelson Whakatū as part of the pre-engagement process for the multi-purpose development with a library at its heart, to better understand their points of view of the needs of Nelsonians and the gaps in current provision in the city,” says Group Manager Community Services Andrew White. 

The organisations and people who have discussed their community’s needs and vision for city investment come from iwi and a cross-section of health, education, social services, business, science and research, disabilities, youth services, migrant communities and the arts.  

Alice Heather says these stakeholders have voiced how important it is for our city to have the right places and spaces for everyone--welcoming and inclusive places to gather and share ideas, music, food, and creativity and find support in ways that build greater community connectedness and success. 

Sonya Briggs from Te Whatu Ora Nelson Marlborough says: 

“Social connection, engagement and support are known requirements for being and staying well. Inclusive spaces where all people can come together for active play, innovation, support and learning foster wellbeing and connection.”  

Anna Fyfe from Multicultural Nelson Tasman says: 

“It would be great to have an engaging and highly usable community space, where those from our diverse ethnic communities, (who make up almost 24% of our region), can feel welcome and equally see themselves and their needs reflected in the design and functionality. A library is so much more than just books these days.” 

Caroline Budge from Age Concern says: 

“Connection is at the heart of what we do at Age Concern – because strong, healthy connections reduce people’s risk of harm from things like social isolation, loneliness, elder abuse and scams. Generally, the more connected someone is, and the stronger their sense of belonging, the better their lives are. We need more places in Nelson where this can happen.”  

Gordon Oldfield from Volunteer Nelson says:  

“There is no shortage of clever, skilled and dedicated volunteers in Nelson. But there is a shortage of spaces where they can do their job effectively and connect with those who need them.”  

Ali Boswijk of the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce says:  

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that people are attracted to live, set up businesses and work in towns and cities that invest in civic infrastructure and attractive community facilities. Central Nelson has seen very little investment of scale for over a generation, and it is beginning to show. We can’t rest on the laurels of our natural beauty and still expect to compete with other regions for investors, expertise, and experienced workers.” 

Heather says it has been an interesting few months speaking with so many passionate advocates for the community.  

“The overarching outcome that community advocates want for their community members is ‘success.’  

“What success looks like is different for everyone, but three themes emerged during my meetings  - lifelong learning, community connectedness, and the traditional borrowing of things.” 

A place to support lifelong learning might offer spaces for individual and collaborative research, experimentation in a VR (virtual reality) suite or inventors’ lab, an auditorium for listening to speakers, or a kids’ Lego universe, for example.  

Community connectedness is about people being able to gather together in a café, cook together in a community kitchen, or meet in other social spaces to dance, sing, create, and share food and stories. Also important is the ability to access important social services information, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Council services, Age Concern, the Wellby project, and more. 

And rather than borrowing a book being a thing of the past, the sharing economy is growing as the community increases its understanding about sustainability. ‘The Borrowing of Things’ that people are talking about includes books, tools, toys, e-bikes, and camping equipment. 

Andrew White says the meetings with people over the last few months have provided rich and valuable insight into the potential for the development. 

“It was clear from everyone the team has met with that the project’s potential is not about where the development is, but about what it could be for our people and our city. It also became clear that calling the proposed development a ‘library’ development was troublesome for some,” says White.  

“Instead, what everyone wanted to talk about was all the opportunities a transformative hub could provide for lifting the Nelson community and moving it forward - hence the new descriptor ‘multi-purpose development, with a library at its heart’. It’s a little awkward to say, but it really does sum up just how many areas of life the benefits of this project will touch. 

“While contemporary libraries do provide a broad range of opportunities beyond traditional book borrowing, the label is less important than understanding what people say the city needs,” he says. 

People can read more about the project at