By ROBYN BRISTOW
Waiau is thumbing its nose at the devastation left by the 2016 November quake.
Its school roll is growing, it has secured a permanent principal, and a new playcentre has opened.
Add the new swimming pool to the list, along with the work being done to grow its housing stock, and the North Canterbury town’s recovery is in good heart, thanks to a resilient community, its leaders and a supportive council.
School board chairwoman Emma Duncan says it is coming up three years since the quake. In her view, Waiau has done exceptionally well to get new facilities in place.
“Some people are involved in every committee. It can be draining getting projects over the line, but the whole community has given so much while coping with their own dramas.”
Mrs Duncan says the school and the community are “one big family”. To celebrate the arrival of new principal Craig Sedgwick for the start of term three, a coffee and cake morning is being held on Wednesday, July 24, at 3pm.
“We want everyone to come and meet him and make him feel welcome.”
He arrives as the school roll makes a big recovery, after dipping to around 28 immediately after the quake as families left town because their homes were wrecked.
“We have been sitting on 30 for a good year and a half, but in the past two terms it has risen to 43, surpassing the board’s goal of reaching 40 by the end of the year,” she says.
The school has also had three acting principals since the beginning of 2018, which from a board perspective has been challenging, she says.
It was amazing how well the students had adapted to the different principals who helped make it a stronger school, she says.
“But it will be good to have stability.”
One acting principal has left behind a legacy. Rebecca Pugh initiated a mural, which, thanks to funding from Hurunui Creative Communities, was unveiled recently.
It was designed by Liv Peckney, the school’s executive officer. The children helped paint the mural, which focuses on resilience, respect, responsibility and gratitude.
“It is amazing. Liv is super talented,” Mrs Duncan says.
Last weekend, the little people celebrated a new home for the playcentre.
Built across the road from the school and the new pool, the town turned out to celebrate the milestone.
Businesses came to the party with a gazebo, cakes and iceblocks.
Playcentre president Courtenay Pemberton says the playcentre has been operating out of the Plunket building since the quake destroyed its home.
This had restricted numbers to 10 children, instead of the usual 25, but “we were just very grateful to have somewhere to go and not have to travel”.
Work soon began to find a new home, with the Hurunui District Council leasing some land. Funding was sought from the Playcentre Federation and Lotteries, boosted by local fundraising, much of it involving catering.
“I remember one week we catered five days in a row for three different people,” Ms Pemberton says.
Eventually, building began and, with the help of amazing parents, a helpful council, and builders who did not mind early-morning meetings to discuss changes.