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Exciting youth facility opens

Ross BanburyThere’s nothing like this anywhere in the country.

Ross Banbury, manager of the Papanui Youth Development Trust and manager of the Papanui Youth Facility, says its a venue young people in Christchurch should get excited about.

The facility breaks new ground for young people at intermediate and high schools, he says.
“We’re writing the book.”
“It’s real big.”

The opening, in April, was “wall to wall people. The weather was a bit of a downer, but it wasn’t too limiting.”

Students and young people need access to internet and printing facilities, and a computer suite is planned as important resource for the local community, Ross says. But there’s more than just computers in the mix.

Mixing musicThere is a “state-of-the-art” climbing wall, a recording studio, a video editing suite, art rooms and a “positive” gaming space.

There are also  plans to have a range of professionals - a doctor, a sexual health worker, a budget advisor and youth workers - based at the centre who can provide advice and assistance to young people in the community.

The project was nine years in the making. The idea for the facility - which shares its hall with St Paul’s  - came out of a youth forum in 1998. Since then the project has taken on a life of its own.

St Paul’s have allowed us to build and own a building on their land - as far as we know it’s the first time an Anglican church has done that in New Zealand.

Without the church’s and the congregation’s “amazing” support, the project wouldn’t have been possible. The Community Trust and the Christchurch City Council and other donors also came on board early as “pillar” support groups, Ross says, but the desire to make the project happen came from the community itself.

Facility from the outside

Te Papanui Trust and Papanui Youth Development Trust collaborated to make the project happen - both trusts were established by Papanui Baptist Church.

“Heaps” of working bees, and donations from businesses and community members have helped make the project a reality. Businesses donated building materials, steel, scaffolding, carpet and expertise. Community members have donated time and energy to keep the project going - even when it faced tough hurdles.

The number of hours that went into the project was “phenomenal”, Ross says.

But there is still plenty to do and Ross, still smiling, maintains a relaxed, yet focused approach.“We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves,” he says. Some of the equipment is yet to be installed, so he has set future users of the music room “a little goal”. “We want to produce a CD of local talent within a year.” “We see people doing tutoring of music, training of how to mix and also business mentoring…” The idea is to create the music, produce the CD and then market and sell the end product to the wider community - including sending a DVD to music channel C4.

Some of the artwork at the facility has been donated by students from Papanui High School, one of several schools that the facility is near. Research shows there are 1400 boarders at schools within a few kilometres of Harewood Road.

Climbing WallThe venue was all designed to be easy to use and multi-purpose. The climbing ropes come out, for example. and the space can be used for a small stage or concert. Other rooms can be used as offices, teaching rooms and seminar rooms. There’s space to chill out too.

Ross describes the fact that the project has come this far as a miracle, and the result of an amazing community effort.

The costs were higher than expected, but fundraising of $850,000, plus “at least” $100,000 of donated or discounted materials and labour, and a council loan have meant the project has become a reality.

Handy to buses, Northlands Mall and reasonably close to town, Ross says he encourages young people to come and take a look. After all, the facility is there for the community to use. A booking system will also be put in place for the different areas at the venue.

And it should be there for a while - there is a “future-proof” agreement in place that should the trust that runs the facility ever fall on hard times, ownership will revert to St Paul’s and the rooms must remain available for use by youth.

Ross says it was pivotal that the idea came from the youth of the community, an amazing team effort, and the key support of the church and the council, which gave other people the confidence to play their part. The end result, he says, goes to show “the power of dreams.”

So go and check it out - be some of the first to use the tremendous legacy that this local community has left for its future generations.