Paroa Playcentre has reason to celebrate

By Brendon McMahon
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Paroa Playcentre is back from the brink as it celebrates a one-year milestone following a flooding disaster.
The New River and Saltwater Creek flooded the old building behind the Paroa School during the summer school holidays three years ago, forcing it to move. With its facilities wrecked the parent-led association moved to the Camerons Hall, where it continued to operate play sessions until opening a new purpose-built centre beside the Paroa School on the main highway a year ago.
The building, on education reserve land, cost $484,000. It was paid for through local fundraising and grants from various public and private funding agencies, with support from the New Zealand Playcentre Federation southern regional capital reserve fund.
Paroa Playcentre administrator Lisa Winter said the flood was a disaster but it had come with a silver lining. It sped up a long-term plan to update the centre’s facilities with a new building on a less flood-prone site.
“Our building was too small for what we needed anyway so it was brought forward by the flooding,” Mrs Winter said.
The centre had gone from strength to strength since the new building opened, with the number of children surging up to 30 a session this year.
“We’ve had a lot of changeover with families ... we got down in number and we’re now building up again. We’ve had six new families in the past three weeks,” Mrs Winter said.
The Paroa group is readying itself this week for a visit from the Ministry of Education for final approval of the new building, play facilities, and operating procedures.
“They give you a year and come back and tick off everything in terms of facilities and policies.”
A couple of projects are in the offing for playcentre, including a new environmentally-based playground being built by playcentre parents on what had been a bare paddock, and a fundraiser in the style of It’s in the Bag, at Shantytown this weekend.
“The focus has gone from getting into the new building to getting the playground,” Mrs Winter said.
All that had been achieved both in the new building and the upcoming fundraising efforts this weekend were in large part due to the “huge support” from the local business community, she said.
This weekend’s fundraiser has been dubbed ‘Scratchy or the Bag’ and will be compared by radio host Phil Lemon as ‘Smelwyn Nogood’. Prizes include jewellery, vouchers for travel, accommodation, and passes to various local tourist attractions.