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Henry Heke on 'getting stuck in'

Flaxmere’s Hastings District Councillor has a lot on his plate – in a good way - and he is getting stuck in.

Henry Heke was elected onto Council in October last year, so is now eight months in and “loving it”.

“Being on Council has exceeded my expectations. It’s a really good kaupapa that is actively supporting cultural diversity. I was one of six new councillors and we have been really warmly welcomed into a collegial atmosphere.”

That sets him up to achieve his aims for Flaxmere.

One of his main ones is the redevelopment of the Flaxmere Community Centre, joining it up with the swimming pool to make one large facility that is ‘fit for purpose’.

“We’ve outgrown our current community centre and we have hundreds more families moving into Flaxmere over the next couple of years.

“Within our community we have been talking about this for years – now it’s the time to prepare plans that will see our library, community centre and swimming pool grow and develop to work for all of our people, with capacity for large functions with commercial level catering facilities.

“We’re rapidly increasing and improving our housing, and we need facilities that will match that growth.”

The pulling out of Foodstuffs from its commitment to build a new supermarket in the suburb is also on his mind. “To the people asking ‘what next?’, I can tell you we have not given up and there are discussions going on about other models and with other providers.”

On Cyclone Gabrielle, he says the level of support that was centred in Flaxmere has firmed up his thinking on improving emergency service provision. “Flaxmere was critical in the

response; four out of the seven Civil Defence Centres were in Flaxmere.”

He says developing response capabilities in Flaxmere makes sense.

“I’m in discussions on the possibility of building a hub for police and a voluntary fire service, but future-proofed for the time when that eastern end of Hastings needs a permanent fire service. “It would service all of the rural areas out from Flaxmere – taking nearly half an hour off response times out to places around Maraekakaho and beyond.”

But above all else, he wants to be a “very strong voice” for Paharakeke. “With the loss of one Flaxmere-focused voice at Council [Flaxmere councillors were reduced from two to one at the last election], I am ensuring that I take the needs of our people to the decision-making table.”


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