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135 years in the making

COVID-19 has put the Kaiapoi Club’s 135-year anniversary plans on hold for now.

The good news is that this club – like much of Christchurch – is not new to challenge and adversity, and its team were ahead of the curve, when the government announced New Zealand’s lockdown this week.

It’s president, Maurice (Bones) Nutira said they had closed the Club by Monday, March 23, and they had put in place measures to support staff financially throughout the nation’s four-week lockdown.

“I think that because of the earthquakes, the people of Christchurch are more resilient, than most to these kind of events now,” Bones said. “Although in saying that, I have been slightly shocked by the panic buying.

“Because during the earthquake supply was an issue. It’s not an issue this time, so people really need to show more patience and kindness.”

Bones said they were looking forward to continuing the Club’s 135-year celebrations once it was able to once again open its doors.

Until then, read on to discover why the Club is as relevant today as it was when it first opened…

 


The Kaiapoi Club is today so much more than simply, “God’s waiting room”.

This juggernaut located in the centre of Kaiapoi, is at the heartbeat of Kaiapoi’s busy epicentre. It has something for everyone within its multiple dining experiences, entertainment, facilities and sporting and leisure groups. And, everyone is welcome.

The Club was formerly known as the Kaiapoi Workingmen’s Club and it recently celebrated being open for 135 years. It holds a permanent charter, and is one of 15 which are affiliated to Clubs New Zealand (Inc).

Putting its rich history aside, this Club has a swagger and energy in 2020 that is hard to ignore. Because, it is all about the future and engaging its younger members, according to its first Maori president, Maurice (Bones) Nutira.

 

Survival and comradery

The Club has weathered two World Wars, the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the 2010 earthquake’s on September 4 (which measured a 7.1 magnitude), the Mosque shooting in Linwood on March 15, 2019 and now the outbreak of COVID-19. Throughout every challenge – and on the good days – it has continued to provide a safe haven for families and friends. 

The gifted wooden skis hanging above the Robert Falcon bar speak to the Club’s historical reference. The bar is named after the celebrated Royal Navy officer and explorer, who led two expeditions to the Antarctic (1901-1904), and the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition (1910–1913).

However, Bones makes “no bones” about the vibe there these days. 

With 4000 members within the region’s collective membership of 50,000, Canterbury boasts the biggest membership within New Zealand. Bones has been president of the Club for 19 years, and he is also a board member for Clubs New Zealand. 

“I’ve got two grandchildren, and when they join that’ll be six generations of our family here,” Bones said. “My kids joined when they were 13, and I’d urge more members get their kids in here. There’s honestly so much to do.”

 

Earthquakes and rebuilding heart

Bones was one of the first through the doors when the September 4 earthquake hit in 2010. The 7.1 magnitude shake destroyed the Club’s iconic restaurant that reached across Hilton St to Raven Quay. Initial plans recommended not rebuilding it, but Bones wasn’t having it.

Today, his determination has been validated. While the restaurant no longer sits right across the street, it does boast panoramic upstairs views over the Kaiapoi River.

“We lost $500,000 in a minute when we lost that restaurant,” Bones said. “There was more than $4 million of damage in total.

“I was standing in the roof when we were hit with a 6.2 aftershock, and the windows all blew out. That was a bit frightening. 

“I’m so happy we pushed to save the restaurant and put all those windows in because now we have incredible views up there. That restaurant seats 90, and it’s available to be booked for events – like [for example] weddings, Christmas, and Mother’s or Father’s Day.”

 

The Club is the hub

The overall result of their work is a safe multi-purpose function centre within the town’s hub.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount to future-proof it,” Bones said.

“The earthquake strengthening was formidably expensive – horrendous, really. And, we had to pay for some of the strengthening ourselves. But we somehow found the fine art of compromise.”

Downstairs is home for the popular bistro, two bars, an office, a bottle store (for members), a gym, the TAB/gaming room, and a meeting room.

Upstairs includes the River View Lounge (function and dance floor), a restaurant, a snooker room, and two meeting rooms. The gas fire in the downstairs bistro restaurant makes for a welcoming ambiance in winter.

“People who have come in after the earthquake don’t realise what it took for us to recover. It was a seven-year project, but we now have a club that is fully compliant. The members know it’s safe.

“It’s also mortgage-free and not many clubs can say that. We’ve paid for everything, and we’ve not borrowed to do any of the changes.

“I’m very proud we’ve been able to navigate our way back. To be honest, I’ve seen so much change in the last decade, it’s not funny.”

He said his engineering background and contacts helped significantly. He also had a great team, which included the former General Manager, Warren McFelin (Kaiapoi’s former BNZ branch manager), who held the position for 20 years. Today, Trudi Marshall fills the role.

 

Administrative support and a “home”

Bones said he joined the Club when he was aged in his mid 30s. He made no secret he wanted the Club to include a special focus on young people. He also wanted it to broaden its brief to include organisations, which needed a home and administrative support.

“We look after the legislation for the 14 or 15 sections who are involved with us,” Bones said. “There is significant additional work through gaming licensing, liquor laws, employment, and health and safety laws these days.

“A lot of the executives of friendly societies or clubs want guidance. We have the support and advantage of a head office, IT and legislation experts.”

 

Women and young people encouraged

Women weren’t allowed in the Club until 1985. Today they form an important part of its culture.

As do young people.

“When I became involved, we introduced juniors and intermediates and I went to Kaiapoi High School and we now have a partnership with them,” Bones said. “On a Wednesday, the kids come here and play pool or darts or table tennis, and we hope they follow it on, and become members.”

 

It takes a village

As with all things, it takes a village to keep the Club shipshape.

“I was born and bred in Kaiapoi, and most of us have a trade that is useful in some way, which saves the Club a lot of money.

“Over the years we’ve had some really good people with us, and we’re always open to welcoming new members.

“It’s just a great institution for our community.”

 


*Shuttle - For those who can’t decide who is driving home, the Club also operates a shuttle from Wednesday through Saturday, and from 4pm Sundays. At just $2 (per person one way inside Pineacres to the Kaiapoi Bull Farm) or $4 for those who live outside that perimeter, it offers a cost-effective solution.