The Waimea Menzshed
Something very good is happening on Lower Queen Street; not the clatter of heavy machinery, traffic delays, and scoured earth. That good thing is the Menz Shed; located next to the A&P Showgrounds.
For millennia women have enjoyed getting together and creating things. Men less so. The spinning group at Eyebright is just one of dozens of local groups where women create and connect. For men there have been service clubs like Lions and Rotary and Jaycees, but these days they are less of a force. Menzsheds are, however, on a rising trajectory.
A men’s shed provides a ‘blokes’ atmosphere where comradeship and good humour abounds. The oldies teach the younger and younger teach the oldies. Members develop new friendships and networks, share their life experience with mates and have a lot of fun in a relaxed environment.
Menzsheds started appearing about ten years ago. In 2011 there was a national meeting to set up a steering committee, and in 2013 the first national conference was held. That was in Nelson. Why have a national body when sheds were already thriving? The main reason is avoiding having to reinvent the wheel. By sharing knowledge, duplication of work is minimised, and pitfalls are avoided. Also having a national body provides benefits in purchasing insurance and materials.
There are Menzsheds throughout the country, but locally we have them in Motueka, Tapawera, Nelson and, of course, the Waimea shed next to the showgrounds.
Every shed is different, but if they’re half as vital as the Waimea shed, their impact is profound.
The Waimea Shed benefits from egoless, patient leadership. The place has a very good feel.
The shed’s projects include making predator traps for DOC, Waimarama Sanctuary, and Friends of Flora, Making toys for the recent Saint and Angels event for kids at the Baptist Church, fixing up old post office pushbikes for recently arrived refugees, building a replica railway carriage for the enactment of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ( Church Steps, on Sunday 11 November, between 10:00am and 3:30pm).
The Menzshed is not just for old blokes. School kids regularly come to do projects. While I was there I met Garin College Student Ryan Turner-Maxwell, happily working on a planter box for his mum and soaking up knowledge and skills. Every week the shed also hosts up to forty IHC clients, for project work.
Ryan Turner-Maxwell, Roy Tomlinson, and Jeff Saxton
Fellowship aside, the Menzshed provides a well-equipped workshop and blokes happy to share expertise gained over decades.
The Waimea Shed was very fortunate to have landed an ideal building and location. In 2011 they were about to sign a lease for a small parcel of land, on which they would build a shed, (and exhaust all their resources in the process). At the Eleventh hour they learned that the Richmond Kennel Club was looking to quit their building. Their building was ideal, three times the size of proposed new build and it was on a spacious parcel of land, that could be leased from the Trotting Club for twenty-five years. At $17,000, it was about a fifth of what the new building was going to cost.
The best of human qualities are displayed at the Waimea Menzshed. But sceptic that I am, the question that I wanted to ask was ‘What about conflicts?’. Surely with all these blokes sharing facilities there must be clashes. True no doubt, but seemingly not significant.
The reason the Waimea Shed functions so well is the dedication and energy of it’s leaders. Not energy of the bombastic kind, but thoughtful energy manifest in patiently listening, and honouring everyone’s characteristics and aspirations.
For more information about the Waimea Menzshed: