Papaioea Place tenants want a meeting place to build community spirit

Palmerston North's Papaioea Place housing complex is missing a place for people to meet outside their units.

David Unwin/Stuff

Palmerston North’s Papaioea Place housing complex is missing a place for people to meet outside their units.

New residents in Palmerston North’s Papaioea Place council flats are struggling to build a sense of community as they do not have a meeting space.

Tenant Judy Groom said people felt fortunate to have warm, modern units to live in, but believed the complex would be enhanced with a community hall.

She said it was particularly tough for the most recent group of 20 tenants who moved in just before the Covid-19 lockdown, and had spent most of their time indoors, unable to get to know new neighbours.

“It feels as if we are two separate groups. We don’t want tenants to feel isolated.”

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Groom said some residents had regular get-togethers in each other’s units, but it was uncomfortable to have more than four people in a small living room.

She said it would be nice to have somewhere for larger groups to meet, invite speakers, share activities and have family around to visit for celebrations.

Mayor Grant Smith agreed the residents did need a place for social interaction.

The complete makeover of the site included replacing 48 units and a hall with 78 units.

The site was densely built, and people needed a social space, he said.

The council had earlier considered options for the final stage of the site redevelopment which could include a community lounge, or a lounge and garden, or more units.

The cost estimate for building a community lounge was estimated around $800,000.

Back in September last year the council put off consideration of the proposal until it looked at the annual plan for 2020/21.

In post-Covid-19, efforts to rein in the overall rates rise, a decision about building a community centre or more units at Papaioea Place, was deferred.

In the meantime, residents at the complex are likely to be encouraged to use the nearby Papaioea Park cricket pavilion as a meeting space.

Smith said the pavilion was used mainly for storing cricket gear, with sports teams occasionally using it to socialise on Saturdays.

He said with minimal alterations, it could quickly be made suitable for other groups to use during the week.

Councillors have asked staff to explore the option.

Work on the latest stage of the rebuilding on-site resumed promptly after Covid-19 restrictions eased.