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WSG Annual Report 2018

Introduction

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Fifty years ago this year a group calling themselves the School of Philosophy bought a property near Otaki and called it Strathean.  There were over one hundred of them. They were young, and they were exploring themselves and the world around them.  Many years later here we are, only about 40 of us.  We no longer own Strathean, but we do continue the same path of exploration.  For some that means staying on the path and moving steadily on at our own pace while for others it can mean wandering off track for a while to help understand our own.  Our strength is in not having any constraints in how fast we move on and how much we wander off.  Our vulnerability is in our small numbers and our energy to continue the exploration.

The Past Year

With our small membership and need to focus our energies we made the decision last year to accept an offer we had received for the sale of Strathean.  Your committee has had to deal with a wide variety of issues to complete the transfer to the new owners.  This includes identifying the trees and other sites which have special significance to us, deciding what to do with surplus equipment and pictures, helping the new owners to understand the complexities of running such a property and adjusting our own management of the weeks and weekends that we have retreats there.  My thanks to all the committee for their assistance and support during this rather intense time.  In particular I would like to note the assistance of Michael in dealing with the many legal matters which arise when such a property is sold.  Also special acknowledgement to Yvonne who, with husband John, had to leave Strathean after dedicating about 20 years to its care and maintenance, and start a new chapter in their lives.  To see them so happy in their new corner of Makahuri, just north of Waikanae, is a big relief for us all.

Meanwhile Hobson Cres has not been ignored.  Glennis, with help from Frances has continued to fulfil the housekeeping role managing the supplies and checking on the multitude of issues that arise with an old building, including water leaks.  They have had to relinquish this role for personal reasons and Vasili has agreed to take over.  We look forward to our home continuing to be cared for under his watchful eye. 

Laurie has continued with managing the hirers who use our rooms downstairs. This brings in about one third of our income so is a very important source of revenue. It is an ever changing scene as we have lost some regular hirers and gained more casual ones.  This, coupled with the vagaries of Google Calendar, and Laurie has always had to be ready for the unexpected.  Lucette has continued in her role of meeting new hirers and introducing them to the hire agreement.  This is particularly important because there is generally no WSG member here when the hirers use the rooms.

Jim has continued in his role as the point of contact for the upstairs tenants.  This lease brings in about two thirds of our income and Jim’s work has ensured we have had steady and I believe happy tenants for a number of years.

Ron, with help from Pricilla, Behroz and Joy, has continued to manage our extensive library including computerising the catalogue and having a stocktake of all the contents.  Perhaps a less fulfilling but still important role that Ron has filled is ensuring our waste bins are emptied as required.

During the year Behroz was co-opted onto the committee to fill the secretarial role.  Unfortunately she is not available to continue this position but we are very grateful for the work she did in keeping our records up to date during such a busy year.  I really appreciate Chris picking up the role for the last committee meeting and this AGM.

We are also very grateful to John Masters and Kaye Davey in Tauranga for continuing to manage our financial recording and reporting.  This has included accounting for all the income and expenditure, preparing reports for each committee meeting and reporting correctly to the Charities Services and IRD.  With the sale of Strathean it has been particularly important that this has been recorded correctly in our financial records.

We have continued with the contractors Julie for cleaning and Jasmin for gardening.  In addition we contracted Emerald Lawns to mow our lawns.  This group of contractors have ensured the place is clean and tidy for ourselves, our hirers and our tenants.  In the background Gillian has provided expert guidance on any specific issues arising in the garden.

The turning has also continued this year thanks to the dedication of Kieron and others.  The training of three new turners (chickpeas) was in progress at the time of the 2017 AGM. After a number of breaks due to various factors, the graduation Mukabeleh was held in early May. It is a credit to everyone involved in the turning that we gave them a very good introduction to the love and joy of that tradition. We have practices when the chickpeas are in Wellington and able, which is rare - one lives on Waiheke Island and another now in Singapore.

This year we have between three and six turners on the floor, with Gillian or Kieron as Semazen Bashi and Michael as Sheikh. On a couple of occasions last year we had to hold a turning practice instead of a scheduled Mukabeleh due to low numbers, but even on those occasions we stayed and enjoyed good company over a shared meal.

Looking Ahead

This year the committee has no longer had to manage the multitude of issues which were involved in owning Strathean.  Instead we have some cash in the bank and a freehold property here at Hobson Cres.  Never the less this building needs some TLC so our focus now is on maintaining this building and bringing it up to modern standards of safety and décor. 

We have had a full earthquake assessment done and the recommendations are that we:

  • Check the foundations to ensure they are not sinking as there is already a difference in floor levels of up to 100mm;
  • Reduce the chimneys to roof level to remove the risk of bricks falling in an earthquake;
  • Eventually demolish the garage because, although it just meets the required earthquake strength, it is beyond any repair and should be removed and possibly replaced at some date.

In addition the committee plans to:

  • Have the external walls and roof repainted;
  • Update the internal décor to reflect a contemporary style while retaining the ambience which so many visitors feel and comment on when they come here.

As our membership is tending to move out of the central city area we now have no one who lives nearby who we can call on at short notice.  For this and other reasons we are exploring the contracting of a house manager.  Someone who lives nearby who could manage tradesmen for us as the upgrade progresses, and also be available for the cleaner, the gardener, the lawnmower contractor, the hirers and also the tenants. Just how this position evolves will depend on the response we get when we publicise this position.

Conclusion 

As I mentioned earlier our treasure is our pathway and the many years of exploring it with an open mind.  This distinguishes us from many other groups which have come and gone as time has moved them on. Our other treasure is our home in Thorndon which we have owned for about 35 years.  Together these three treasures, our teachings, our openness and our venue are what we can offer to the community.  The question we have yet to resolve is how to best do this.

From your committee’s point of view, our focus is on managing the property and the finances involved.  Offering our pathway to the wider community is the challenge in front of all of us.  I ask you all to think how this can best be done.

Larry Purchas, Chairman

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