Red Keys: Wellington City Mission urges locals to 'share ownership' of its new community hub Whakamaru

  • 05/10/2023

Wellington City Mission is inviting locals to share ownership of its new community hub Whakamaru as part of an innovative fundraising initiative to complete the building project. 

The five-storey Whakamaru building will house a comprehensive array of essential services, including transitional housing for 40 individuals, a social supermarket said to bring choice and dignity to the foodbank experience, a pay-as-you-feel community café, and critical support services such as financial mentoring and social work. The shared space will be located in Oxford Terrace, near the Basin Reserve, and was gifted the name 'Whakamaru' by mana whenua as a symbol of shelter, safeguarding, and protection. 

The aim of the project is to create a safe and inclusive space that mirrors the familiar comfort of everyday places, Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge said on Wednesday.   

However, the $45.3 million building - hailed as one of the capital's most transformative community-focused projects to date - needs donations to get it up and running. At the time of writing the Mission has raised $40.8 million, but needs contributions from more New Zealanders to achieve the final $4.5 million needed.

In a bid to encourage Wellingtonians to support the project, Edridge announced that anyone who donates to the completion of Whakamaru will be given a special red key, cut in the shape of the Wellington skyline, to symbolise their shared ownership of the community space. 

It's hoped the development will further the Mission's goal of breaking down the barriers and stigma associated with accessing essential services and support, he added, as well as building an inclusive community without division. 

Any donation - big or small - is welcomed, with the Mission aiming for every Wellingtonian to have a red key on their key chain. 

"We continuously review our services to ensure they are fit for purpose as the needs of the community change and grow. The creation of Whakamaru is about curating a space for the community, no matter where you are in life, you will be welcome here," Edridge said. 

"Whakamaru will benefit the entire Wellington region, and our Red Key initiative helps ensure all Wellingtonians feel a sense of symbolic ownership of our new community space." 

Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge and Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau.
Wellington City Missioner Murray Edridge and Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau. Photo credit: Supplied

Over the last 12 months the Wellington City Mission has experienced a 47 percent increase in demand for food. Just in the last quarter, it has seen a 28 percent increase in demand for its community lounge and a 40 percent surge for its social supermarket offering.

"Whakamaru will be a great asset for Wellington. The Wellington City Mission is taking a new and exciting approach to how we support those who are doing it tough. Whakamaru provides an opportunity for the whole community to be involved as part of the solution," said Major of Wellington Tory Whanau.

"I'm truly excited. 'No us and them' is something Wellingtonians can make a reality." 

One of the highlights of the development will be its state-of-the-art medical centre, anticipated to serve approximately 4000 vulnerable individuals in its inaugural year. The centre will offer comprehensive medical capability bringing five GPs, a mental health team, an optometrist, and a podiatrist, Edridge said. 

As the project strives to reach completion by the end of August 2024, Wellington City Mission is encouraging all individuals, businesses, and organisations to play a pivotal role by donating what they can and acquiring a red key.

The keys are available from sites across the capital. All locations and more information on how to donate is available on the Wellington City Mission website.