Sometimes things turn out well. After a year of hard slog, the repair and upgrade of Jack’s Mill School situated at Kōtuku drew to a conclusion so that a residential centre for the exploration of social change, as well as a community resource, now exists.[1] There was a final drive required to meet the funding deadline but builder and plumber came to the party and a gentle opening took place a week ago. The school had become close to derelict and the site of the children’s cottage a little desolate of purpose so it was lovely seeing people gathering once more.

The whole exercise could have been a disaster and as project manager for Te Puawai Co-operative Society, whose project it was, I was terrified it might go over budget for there were no organisational reserves to call upon. But all was well financially and the funder, Manatū Taonga, Ministry of Culture and Heritage signed off a final report and I could have a moment of great satisfaction. Such moments are experienced on the completion of a play or book, but a physical resource like a school feels of greater import for the physical world has changed for the better.

I came out of the project full of admiration for the tradespeople who have been involved: Mike the builder resolving building issues in an old building where nothing is level or square, the plumbers and electricians installing modern systems in a matter of days, the vinyl layers neatly solving problems – without our brain and muscle not a single wheel will turn is a an absolutely truthful line from a union song. And it helped that a matter-of-fact, problem-solving architect was involved, pleased that the building will be around for another hundred years.

[1] The school saw a progressive headmaster, Edward Darracott, institute a first exercise in hands on, technical education when he got the children to design, build and furnish a model, child-sized cottage, which still stands and which caused the site to be designated a category one historic site.