Tuesday, 02 June 2020


Students create a lasting legacy with community pantry project

Whitianga’s first community pantry where locals can drop off or exchange excess food and produce was unveiled this week at the entrance to the Mercury Bay Community Pool on Cook Drive.

The brainchild of Mercury Bay Area School students, Romy Johnson and Tahlia Reid, the pantry has been created as a legacy project through which the girls can give something back to their communit, and has been dedicated to the memory of the late Senior Sergeant Pat Doak, who passed away recently.

MBAS legacy project coordinator, Nicole Fisher, said the concept was developed early in term one and Romy and Tahlia had worked tirelessly to deliver on their vision. “Tahlia has sadly left our school in the past couple of weeks but she and Romy should be super proud of what they produced. The pantry looks amazing,” she said.

Romy, who moved to Whitianga from Great Barrier Island last year, said words could not describe how happy she was with the finished product. “The pantry is located near the school carpark where everyone can access it easily. We hope people will donate food that they do not need as well as swapping things if they have an excess of a particular fruit or vegetable in their garden,” she said.

The girls researched how similar food exchange sites had worked in other communities and then examined a range of different designs, eventually deciding on a cupboard style pantry. They then had to present their proposal to John Wright, the school principal. Once they got the go ahead, Romy drafted a presentation which she took to PlaceMakers, Whitianga, and outlined their idea. PlaceMakers immediately got on board and donated all the equipment and materials. Some local builders, including Nicole’s husband, got drafted in to assist with some of the construction skills.

“I learned so much, how to build a pantry obviously, but also how to work with others on a project, making decisions and solving problems. I’ve loved being part of the legacy team. We’re just like a big family and it’s been such a great way of making friends and forming relationships. It makes me so happy that we came to Whitianga and I got to come to MBAS and be part of this,” Romy said.

The pantry features a painting of a pohutukawa tree. “The idea of a tree represents a family tree and we decided to make it a pohutukawa because they are such beautiful trees and so special to us here on the Coromandel,” Romy said.

Nicole said the students came up with the idea of dedicating the pantry to Pat Doak. “Pat was such a pillar of the community. He always had time for our students. He even turned up to many of their birthday parties over the years. It feels like a fitting tribute because it puts Pat’s memory out there at the heart of the community, which is where Pat always was,” she said.

This is the second year of the MBAS legacy team programme. While the goal was originally to help re-engage students who might be having difficulties at school, Nicole now frequently receives requests from students who want to join the team. As well as coming up with an idea and executing their project plan, students also need to complete a budget and fundraise to cover any costs. “It has been such a success. In Romy’s case, her communication skills have just gone through the roof. She can now confidently hold a conversation with anyone,” said Nicole.

Other projects created by the legacy team include a giant checkerboard for the junior school and a two-hole mini putt course, while the latest project to be taken on is a bike stand. A total of 17 students participated in the legacy team this year.

Pictured: Mercury Bay Area School legacy project coordinator, Nicole Fisher, and Year 10 student, Romy Johnson, alongside the community pantry which has now been installed at the entrance to the Mercury Bay Community Pool.


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