Beyond Charity

A conversation about community with Ange from the Petone Depot

What is the Petone Depot?

An empty space. A “community venue”. “neighbourhood hub” seems a bit naff. A space for activities and whatever people want to bring to it. A space to play for shared enrichment.

It is what people make it.

This is how we fund it — it’s used for different things and different folk pitch in various resources and money.

It means we don’t have to do council funding — nobody wants to write applications and *urghhh* accountability reports — “Average of 12 youth to meet our ‘targets’… blah blah”.

Not competing for limited Council funding makes it easier to support and celebrate the wonderful work of other community projects, rather than fearing loss of funding to them if they do a great job.

We are still accountable to our trust board. Actually, they’ve not yet needed to step in. We hold ourselves accountable. Largely they trust us. And I trust that they would step in if needed.

In startup lingo:

“A people powered not-for-profit social enterprise that engages, builds and collaborates with community through events and activities”.


Why do you do it?

We have a venue to do all the fun stuff. My DJ decks are there, I get to play my vinyl really loud with a smoke machine. The kitchen is bigger than mine so I can cook for lots of people! I want to encourage others to use it to share their passions.

We warn people who get involved that they’re not just hiring a meeting space — they’re joining a village. This means that they’ve got resources and skills and that we might just hit them up to share them with their village, so everyone can make stuff happen!

Who else is involved?

Heaps of people, here’s a snapshot of a few, in no particular order:

Sarah — another lovely mum and web developer from upstairs. She wants to see the place working. She comes and eats here at the Depot often with her daughter Nat. She used the space to start the Petone Coops (one fruit, one dry-goods) which together serve about eighty households. She’s got our back.

Matt — a Hutt Valley Bogan working for Housing NZ, playing tonight at the Angus Inn in Lower Hutt with his old rock band. He’s really good because he used to work with MSD as a business analyst or something, and has been a youth worker. He gets into background research and advocacy. He’ll go find and look through the council plans and talk to them — I just want to pick up my spade.

Gina — Pretty constant. She’s part of the Coops and she’s really good with people. She’s the sort of person who’s always there with just what you need, She’s who people will go to for chats (I’m too busy running around). She’s really approachable.

Keiran — He’s interestingly and lovingly creative. I collaborate with Keiran with my business SilverCircus Clothing too. A freelance illustrator, he’s done a lot of work on posters and things. He hosts film showings, and brings that love of film into the space.

David — Adminny guy. My man, Coordinates with accounts, sits on the Trust Board. He’s actually always around doing stuff as well — hosting “Board Gaming Society” meets, projecting cricket onto the screen in the middle of the afternoon for passers by… He’s really good at community engagement — a really broad spectrum of people from corporates to mob folk to the neighbourhood kids. He often MC’s events.

Leila — All things Coop and food and gardening. She’s really good with saying “Nope, that’s not my thing, nope not that”. Has mega cupboard organising skills. Stacking and labelling. “What is this shit? Where has this come from? Who’s left all these clothes here?”. She’s forever taking photo’s of lost property and things and post them on the “Depot’s core crew and supporters” Facebook page, where we post shout-outs for help… and calls to get rid of the shit that has accumulated.

You talked about hope…

I quite like this:

That’s a lump of coal on the left, and a diamond of arrows on the right. You know, the coal transformed to diamond metaphor.

We had our Annual general meeting the other day — twenty people around a big meal. I stood in front of a whiteboard and asked people to shout out “What does hope mean to you?”. Turns out it’s really hard to pin down.

“Hope” is a state AND an action.

Hope is a longing

Hope gives agency

Hope is in collective with trust and faith

Hope can’t be faked

Hope is directional

Hope is discontentment

Hope is risky and fragile

Hope is contagious

Hope helps bear a loss

We realised that hope is a big part of what makes the Petone Depot unique. We think about crazy things we could do, then we go and do them. Why is it that we have this culture?

We have found more and more hope over the last three years of working together in Petone. And it’s way beyond the Depot. There’s the food gardens, the fruit trees. So many other things. And it feels like it is only the beginning, there is so much possibility.

We recently got asked to write a blue-sky dreams doc thing for Petone in 2040 for the Community board. Many others talked about roading, infrastructure. We mostly dream about great relationships between people and groups of people. We make events to be accessible to everyone, to mash everyone together, through ‘pay what your able pop up cafes is a great one for this. The neighbourhood is getting more diverse, and the disparities are getting wider. It’s a challenge, to get everyone to know each other. We are all neighbours though in this place.

More and more hope is innately tattooed in my being. And my body. literally. David has one too.

I like thinking of hope as both the bending of the bow under adversity and strain, and the arrow that shoots forward towards the target. To not forget where the arrow has come from — a place of hurt and vulnerability. Which is a grounding thing for me.

It’s addictive, living in a state of thinking of an idea and realising there is nothing stopping us from doing it. We’ve got the resources we need. We’ve got everything we need to make shit happen.

How do you see your role now?

Just a punter. We’re all just punters. People can use my sewing machines if they want. I might teach you to cook if you ask me nicely.

My brain has the ability to go crazy with ideas and possibilites. And now we have the people power to do half of the stuff I think of now, which is great. And now I put heaps more of my silly ideas out there — and sometimes somebody else jumps on it and makes it happen with me. Or maybe in the future? It’s all hope really.

I need to go walk on the grass now.

Oh, by the way, the People’s Kitchen project has a constant need for a plumber and a refrigeration engineer — let us know if you know anyone who can help out!

Ange also mixes her vinyl at events around the country as DJ Danger and runs the Silver Circus children’s clothing label. She’s super lovely.

Leave a message below if you’ve got any questions or comments, we’re interested to hear your reflections and experience!