Pātaka kai a tohatoha – The Sharing Pantry

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One good side-effect of Covid is just how our communities have rallied together and how social goodwill and generosity have become so much more evident. Schools, which are often the heart of the community found themselves turned into distribution centres for food, for homemade goods, books, and movies – anything to get us through the lockdown. Or the next.

One such school was Whenuapai – right on the edge of the Whenuapai Air Force base. After the second lockdown was lifted – the staff and children wanted to create a place where they could more easily share donated food, pantry items, and books with the community.

They wanted to build a “Pātaka kai ” that could hold and display donated items as well as protect them from the elements. Since Fletcher Living already had strong relationships with the Whenuapai Community through our housing developments, we were naturally keen to lend a hand.

 "A lot of children who have moved into Fletcher Living homes at Whenuapai, attend this school. So, it felt like a natural extension of our belief in seeing communities grow and prosper. We were more than happy to help". Charlie Meredith, Construction Manager, Fletcher Living, Auckland North.

At first, an idea was floated that the kids should build the Pātaka kai themselves. But you can imagine the Health & Safety challenges that would bring! So instead, we challenged the kids to a design competition. Lesson one. Never underestimate the intelligence and calibre of Kiwi kids.

Grand designs from little minds.

After a few weeks, the children from Whenuapai School presented us with three very creative and very elaborate plans to choose from. The project suddenly went from a simple store cupboard…to something requiring a lot of skilled help.

“Luckily, we have skilled help in spades and called in our head of design James Brodie and even twisted the arm of architect Nick Holden in Sydney to select the winning design.” Graham Harris, Project Manager, Fletcher Living, Auckland North. 



The Fletcher Living team transformed the winning design from ten-year-old Caesar Panui into working plans for our builders. The team at Placemakers were keen to get involved and supplied all the timber for free. Fletcher Living North Supervisor Wayne Edwards put his work belt back on, dusted off his carpentry skills, and before long the Pātaka kai was built – complete with see-through Perspex doors.

All it needed was a coat of paint. With a quick call to Dulux, they came to the party with a donation of special waterproof, Aqua Enamel paint for a hard-wearing, water-resistant finish which gave the base for a topcoat to be completed by the students. “In effect, we made the cake, and the kids iced it. I'm sure you will agree, there’s no cake without icing”. Charlie Meredith


Painting day.

The painting day was an event in itself as the Whenuapai kids wanted to paint their Pātaka kai design in the school colours. Ore red to represent Whare a mohiotanga – the House of Knowledge. Blue for Whare a tuhituhi – the House of Striving. Teal green for Whare a whakatupu – the House of Growth and finally, brown for Whare a Whakahoanga – the House of Friendship. And we showed our community involvement by turning up with Subway sandwiches for all! 

Once it was painted the installation took place with help from a few of the Fletcher living supervisors Wayne Edwards, Campbell Swanson, Daniel Bohte, and David Northey.



The official Pātaka kai opening.

To welcome the new Pātaka kai, Whenuapai School held a special morning ceremony complete with BBQ for a sizzling welcome into the community.

"This has been the most amazing process that has come together through a genuine love for the community. Our 2020 year 8's ignited the process with their designs and Fletcher Living just ran with the ideas. No hill was too hard to climb, and we thank you for your willingness to be part of this journey. This is not the end however, this journey has been shared across our North West Kahui Ako - Whiri Te Tangata, and we have become enviable to other schools. We are hoping this will become a 'way of being' across our communities and we can continue to contribute and collaborate with each other wherever possible for years to come". Molly Fletcher, Deputy Principal.

Charlie Meredith couldn’t agree more about the year 8’s amazing input: "We build homes for our customers and take time to listen to their wishes for their brand new home – so it was a real privilege to listen to our little customers at Whenuapai School and help make their wish come true for a community Pātaka kai. It taught me to never underestimate the calibre of the kids today!".



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