Home Coming

One of the more significant milestones of the first 20 years 0f the club was the establishment of a permanent base at Otaki. This has been quite an achievement for a small club such as ours and one that the club should be proud of. It took 17 years to become reality and is something that many larger clubs have yet to achieve. What follows is a short history of the events that led to the establishment of a permanent home for the club.

The First Site

The need for some sort of premises became apparent early in the history of the club, to store parts which, under the constitution, the club is committed to preserving for the membership. In the early years parts were accumulated at members’ properties, particularly at Robbie and Liz Taylor’s and at Shaun and Allison McCarthy’s. It was not too many years before these arrangements became unsatisfactory for both the wider club membership and the individual members who so willingly provided the storage space.

An interim solution was provided with the leasing of a disused commercial building in Otaki belonging to Sam Chung. Some members will recall the effort to move the parts to the shed at Otaki. This was a major project with everything being moved by private car and trailer, but eventually everything was moved and stored.
A bonus was the extra space in the building. This was sublet to members for the storage of cars. At times, three or four cars were in residence. The storage fees were a useful offset to the monthly rent. The shed at Otaki also served as a focus for club working bees ostensibly to “tidy the shed”. These usually turned out to be something of a social event for the participants, Whilst some progress was made with the sorting and cataloguing of parts, the Club never really came to grips with its inventory and by the early 1990s the collection had become a well-picked-over selection of second hand parts.
It was always of concern to successive committees that the monthly lease at Otaki could be terminated at short notice.The site had already been subdivided and plans had been drawn up for the redevelopment of the building as a residence. Whilst the owners were well disposed toward the club and its activities, the lack of security of tenure was never far from our minds. Had we been required to move the collection at one month`s notice, the club would have been severely embarrassed.
Another concern was the poor state of the building. Dilapidation and vandalism meant that nothing was really secure. Theo de Leeuw had a stored car damaged and high-value items and tools could not be left on site. Lack of services such as plumbing and electricity meant that work on site was difficult. The quarter acre section was a constant battle to keep the long grass in check. Much credit must go to Shaun McCarthy and Tom Milburn who as parts coordinators spent many hours at the shed cutting the grass. In mid 1993 a major effort was made by the club to tidy up the building. Sections of the roof and roof framing were replaced and the walls secured.
In 1993 the new committee decided to find a permanent home for the club. There was an option to buy the leased premises at Otaki but this proved to be beyond our means, even before renovation of the building was considered. Taking a lead from the Morris Eight Tourer Club, all local authorities from Manawatu to Wellington were approached to locate a site that could be leased for a nominal fee, for the establishment of new club premises.
The first site to be considered was on railway land at Ohau administered by the Horowhenua District Council. However, the area was subject to a claim under the Treaty of Waitangi and the club was advised that it was likely that ownership would pass to local Iwi. Tenure could not be assured so the committee looked elsewhere.
Old MECCNZ Site

During the 1980s, before the club acquired a lease of a shed in Rangiruru Road, Otaki, parts were stored at Robbie & Liz Taylor’s house in Lower Hutt. This was a typical scene on the long- suffering Taylor’s back lawn.

The need for some sort of premises became apparent early in the history of the club, to store parts which, under the constitution, the club is committed to preserving for the membership. In the early years parts were accumulated at members’ properties, particularly at Robbie and Liz Taylor’s and at Shaun and Allison McCarthy’s. It was not too many years before these arrangements became unsatisfactory for both the wider club membership and the individual members who so willingly provided the storage space.

An interim solution was provided with the leasing of a disused commercial building in Otaki belonging to Sam Chung. Some members will recall the effort to move the parts to the shed at Otaki. This was a major project with everything being moved by private car and trailer, but eventually everything was moved and stored.
A bonus was the extra space in the building. This was sublet to members for the storage of cars. At times, three or four cars were in residence. The storage fees were a useful offset to the monthly rent. The shed at Otaki also served as a focus for club working bees ostensibly to “tidy the shed”. These usually turned out to be something of a social event for the participants, Whilst some progress was made with the sorting and cataloguing of parts, the Club never really came to grips with its inventory and by the early 1990s the collection had become a well-picked-over selection of second hand parts.
It was always of concern to successive committees that the monthly lease at Otaki could be terminated at short notice.The site had already been subdivided and plans had been drawn up for the redevelopment of the building as a residence. Whilst the owners were well disposed toward the club and its activities, the lack of security of tenure was never far from our minds. Had we been required to move the collection at one month`s notice, the club would have been severely embarrassed.
Another concern was the poor state of the building. Dilapidation and vandalism meant that nothing was really secure. Theo de Leeuw had a stored car damaged and high-value items and tools could not be left on site. Lack of services such as plumbing and electricity meant that work on site was difficult. The quarter acre section was a constant battle to keep the long grass in check. Much credit must go to Shaun McCarthy and Tom Milburn who as parts coordinators spent many hours at the shed cutting the grass. In mid 1993 a major effort was made by the club to tidy up the building. Sections of the roof and roof framing were replaced and the walls secured.
In 1993 the new committee decided to find a permanent home for the club. There was an option to buy the leased premises at Otaki but this proved to be beyond our means, even before renovation of the building was considered. Taking a lead from the Morris Eight Tourer Club, all local authorities from Manawatu to Wellington were approached to locate a site that could be leased for a nominal fee, for the establishment of new club premises.
The first site to be considered was on railway land at Ohau administered by the Horowhenua District Council. However, the area was subject to a claim under the Treaty of Waitangi and the club was advised that it was likely that ownership would pass to local Iwi. Tenure could not be assured so the committee looked elsewhere.

The Club parts team – John Berry, Shaun McCarthy and Tom Milburn at the Rangiruru Road shed 1995

The Second Site

The second site was on reserve land at Haruatai Park in Otaki administered by the Kapiti Coast District Council. This site was well suited to our needs. The Council had had the foresight to include services in the reserve for the establishment of club facilities, and several groups had already developed sites. An agreement in principle was made with the KCDC, and at the 1994 AGM a formal proposal adopted to develop club facilities on this site. Planning work commenced immediately. After looking at several buildings to relocate onto the site it was decided to erect a new building. Plans were drawn up and fund raising commenced. By September 1994, $2700 had been raised for the project. By July 1995 there were sufficient funds to start foundation work and the engineer’s survey was complete.

Just as we were about to move the first earth, a major setback occurred with the advice from the KCDC in August 1995 that a dispute had arisen over Haruatai Park. Some of the land that now forms the reserve had been taken in the early part of the century for the establishment of a hospital. The hospital was built and operated until the late 1960s. It was then closed and ownership passed to the local authority. The land was incorporated into the reserve and over the next 20 years developed as Haruatai Park. The dispute arose when descendants of the original owners complained that when the hospital was closed the land was not offered back. Unfortunately for the club the KCDC felt that even though the club site was not part of the disputed area, no new leases should be finalised at Haruatai Park until the dispute was solved.
The original estimate for resolving the dispute was about six months. However, by October 1995 we had received advice that our leased premises at Otaki were to be put on the market. By February 1996 the property was sold and it was clear that very little progress had been made by the KCDC to resolve the dispute. Some quick work by John Daniels with the new owners in Wellington ensured our tenure for another year but clearly there was a pressing need to find a home for the club.
The committee put the case to KCDC officers that we had a pressing need for emergency storage. The Council owned a sound 54 square metre building at Haruatai Park which was due to be demolished. However, there were no funds available for the demolition. The council offered that if our club was forced to move before new premises were available, we could move our parts to the shed rent free until the dispute was solved. The committee was quick to see the opportunity in this offer and made a conditional offer to purchase the building from the council, move it to the new site, and extend it when the dispute was resolved.
Although the building was too small for our needs, the offer of interim storage was a welcome backstop. By October 1996 there had still been no progress resolving the dispute and it seemed that we would have to use the interim storage option. This would force the club into a major rationalisation of parts, many of which would need to be discarded.
A meeting was requested with officers of the KCDC to explain our predicament. The result of that meeting was the offer of a third site, this time at Waikanae. This was a similar arrangement to that at Haruatai Park but the land was not subject to a dispute. Only the consent of the local community council would be required but the message from the District Council was that this was a mere formality. A special AGM was held and the club agreed to switch plans to Waikanae subject to agreement by the Waikanae Community Council. Unfortunately the WCC felt that the site (the last of four on the reserve) should be kept for a local group rather than a national club such as ours!! Within days more bad news was to follow with a request from our landlord to start clearing the building at Otaki. This news was a blow to the club but it did set the stage for resolution of the impasse at Haruatai Park.
An emergency meeting was requested between Chris Torr, John Daniels, and John Gardiner with officers of the KCDC. The result of these negotiations was for the council to retain ownership of the building but allow the club to move it and add an extension at no cost to the council. This way the council would merely be allowing the movement of its own building from one part of the reserve to another. No new lease would be signed and no payments made until the dispute was resolved. This was agreed and so the impasse at Haruatai Park was broken in a way that exceeded our expectations. The Club had its own building on deferred payment, and the site was rent free until the issues relating to the reserve were solved. The agreement was announced to the membership in January 1997.
While the negotiations with the council were going on the club started a series of clean outs at the old parts shed. It was resolved that all of the stored material be surveyed and any junk discarded. This presented the club with a dilemma; how to decide what was junk. Dave Waters and others came to the rescue with some simple rules such as; members wanting parts should be given first option on anything to be discarded, engine blocks without bearing caps were junk, only one example of each piece of flat glass should be kept as a pattern, non-Morris parts would be sent to the VCC, and body panels with severe rust holes would be discarded.
With these rules to guide us about 25% of the shed contents were consigned to the transfer station. This action drew a quick response from the Morris Eight Tourer Club whose members complained about the disposal of such valuable items. However, the club simply had no choice but to be rather ruthless in order to preserve the best material for future members. In my opinion the club did very well to retain as much as
it has.

The Club moved quickly to develop the new site. By April 1997, five major working bees had been held. Noel Kilmartin and Barry Reynolds coordinated the building work. The foundation was prepared and the concrete floor laid, the building moved to the new site, the extension built, and finally the remaining stock of parts and shelving moved across town from the old parts shed to the new club rooms. Further working bees followed to attend to exterior painting, connection of underground services, interior linings and electrical and plumbing work. The first formal club event at the site was an open day held in May 1997.

Today the club has a facility to be proud of. Members enjoy much improved access to parts and on-site services, and the site is an attractive setting for events. Although the club does not have long term security of tenure, with the goodwill of the KCDC the situation is much better than we ever had previously. Although the rent-free period has now ended, the recurring expenses should be well within the means of a club with around 90-100 members.

For the future there is the possibility of further extensions to the building to meet the needs of the club for many years.

Chris Torr, Past President and Editor

Clearing out the sheds

Clearing out the old shed before the move to Haruatai Park in 1998. Shown are Dave Payne, Fred Carrick, Dave Waters, John Watkins, Colin Jurgens, John Daniels, Dave Munn and Chris Torr.