Kelvin Grove Community Assn. Inc.

Kelvin Grove Residents’ Assn. Inc. as a Community Advocate

This record of the Kelvin Grove Residents’ Association (now renamed Kelvin Grove Community Assn. Inc.) and its predecessors as advocates for the Kelvin Grove community, is based on the document originally prepared during the Judicial Review regarding the decision to build the Lower North Youth Justice Centre in Mohaka Street, Kelvin Grove in 1998. Kelvin Grove Residents' Association had to prove that it could genuinely claim, in legal terms, to represent the people of Kelvin Grove, in order that it could initiate this Judicial Review. It was successful in its efforts in that respect, but not in overturning the decision to build the youth justice centre. However, the creation of this document set on paper a useful record of the organisation and its history.  

Kelvin Grove Residents’ Association Inc. can trace its origins to 1901 and the establishment of the Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society Inc. Kelvin Grove Residents' Association inherited the Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society’s documents and minute books following the sale of the old hall. It has now deposited these and assorted other historical material for posterity at the Palmerston North City Archives. It is unlikely that any other suburb of Palmerston North can claim to have created such a long history of community records (as opposed to school records), let alone ones that survive to the present day. In due course, neighbouring Whakarongo should be able to make a similar claim based on its hall records that date to 1899. Although Whakarongo is yet to develop an equivalent of Kelvin Grove Residents' Association.

Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society was formed in 1901 by  a number of keen local farmers and others living in the rural community of Kelvin Grove. The site chosen for the new hall was immediately east of Kelvin Grove School, and therefore only a few hundred metres  outside the Palmerston North Borough boundary. So its community of interest spread throughout upper Roslyn and about half way to both Whakarongo and Bunnythorpe. Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society also became an incorporated society on 28 August 1901, and bore the ID number WN/215330.

The new society's aim was to establish and operate a community hall. This hall was built with funds raised by the community during and after 1901, with the hall's official opening occurring on 1 October 1901. In addition to running the hall, the committee, as the only community-focused organisation in Kelvin Grove, very actively participated in and promoted the affairs of the community.  The Kelvin Grove School Committee obviously undertook some social activities too, although primarily dealing with the school. The two certainly shared committee members, which must have helped with planning activities.

After the establishment of the hall, a tiny post office was added to the small list of community facilities in 1903. Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society also purchased land for a sportsground and actively developed it during the early 1900s. This property now belongs to Haulage Parts, but until recently, it belonged to Brittons Housemovers. For many years prior to that though, it was the district’s Atlantic/Mobil Depot.

Many functions were held at the sports ground by Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society, especially the popular annual Sports Day, which was traditionally held on Wellington’s Anniversary Day (22 January). Things went fairly well until the Government forbade them to conduct horse races (farm hacks, dray horses, anything on legs) at their sports day. This suggests the odd wager may also have taken place on these occasions, though there is no sign of this in the hall records. The dilemma quickly caused funds to run short. Soon the sports days were cancelled and then the sportsground was sold.

In addition, Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society ran and promoted many community events at its halls over many years - in the interests of the community’s well-being. These included taking a leading role in the interests of the war effort during both world wars. Fire destroyed the first hall in 1921 and the second opened debt free in 1935. In the meantime, the school had served both Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society and the community as a substitute hall. Both halls - and for that matter the school building also - owed their existence to the hard work and the fund-raising efforts of the community. Neither hall was paid for or maintained by local government, and certainly, the central government refused to repay the community for money spent on the original school building in 1893. Kelvin Grove had developed an ‘if you want it, do it yourself’ mentality, and this tradition has repeatedly been relearned the hard way.  

Throughout the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society struggled for the same reasons that other rural communities struggled around that time and since. So its increasingly limited activities focused on the hall and its inevitable need for constant maintenance. In 1966, however, housing construction started in the new Kelvin Grove suburb that was now its immediate neighbour. By this time, their shared boundary fence was also the current city boundary. 

This progress inspired the Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society (which remained in the Kairanga County) to rejuvenate the temporally closed Kelvin Grove Hall, so that it might become an asset for the new community. Unfortunately, this required taking on whatever clientele came along and a number of bands chose to practice there. In part, it was to complain en masse about the resulting noise that saw the foundation, in about 1967, of the Kelvin Grove Progressive Association. 

Kelvin Grove Progressive Association was in due course incorporated on 25 November 1975 as ID number WN/217863. It was renamed the Kelvin Grove Residents’ Association. in 1987, following a law change that required that this be done.  

Over the years, Kelvin Grove Progressive Association / Kelvin Grove Residents' Association has been extremely active as a community pressure group, as it attempted to improve conditions in the isolated Kelvin Grove suburb, and generally advocated on behalf of the people of Kelvin Grove. Where other similar groups in other suburbs quickly faded - or perhaps only existed so long as some major issue existed - Kelvin Grove Residents' Association retains its strength and retains its ability to draw the community together when the need arises. During ‘good’ times, Kelvin Grove Residents' Association. functions mostly functions as the Management Committee of the Kelvin Grove Community Centre. However, when the need arises, it transforms back into the community leadership and advocacy role that led to its existence in the first place.

The particular need for a group such as Kelvin Grove Residents' Association, was created and sustained by years of discontent at the fact that promises made to develop the suburb seldom and sometimes seemingly never came to fruition. Until 1980, when the present Kelvin Grove Community Centre was delivered to the suburb, the Kelvin Grove Progressive Association’s work was mostly involved with improving the lot of Kelvin Grove residents, although members were also involved on the committee of the old Hall Society. 

Similarly, longstanding members of Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society gradually became involved with Kelvin Grove Progressive Association. For example, Leo Burr - a whole-of-life resident (excluding war service) of Kelvin Grove, and a long-time Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society Committee Member - was one of the 15 signatories when Kelvin Grove Progressive Association was incorporated in 1975.

In the late 1970s, due to frustration resulting from the lack of a shop in the growing community (because the Co-op Grocery chain had secured Kelvin Grove’s two shop sites and had then failed to occupy them), Kelvin Grove Progressive Association opened and operated its own small shop - specifically to suit the needs of the community. This was sited near the site of the Kelvin Grove Mini Market. At first, this shop operated - on a voluntary, restricted hours basis - out of a caravan. Later they obtained a Skyline-type garage for the site. The shop operated until just before the present two shops opened in 1982.  

For much of the period of its existence, Kelvin Grove Progressive Association advocated the need for a new hall that was more suited to the community’s needs than the old (1935) hall, which certainly was in need of a major overhaul. As a result, in 1980 the former Centennial Pavilion that began life in The Square, became the Kelvin Grove Community Centre. Kelvin Grove Progressive Association then took over its administration duties, a role that continues to the present day.

In 1981, the old hall was sold and the funds, having been raised by the Kelvin Grove community decades earlier, were placed with Palmerston North City Council with the stipulation that they must be used for some community project in Kelvin Grove. The old Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society committee then disbanded and was eventually struck off the Companies Office register on 19 July 1984. 

The Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society's remaining property was also passed on to Kelvin Grove Progressive Association as its successor at the time of the disbanding. These things included such treasured things as the district’s Rolls of Honour. In 1988, the aforementioned Kelvin Grove Social Hall Society funds contributed toward the building of the supper/meeting room onto the back of the community centre. Shortly thereafter, the photographic Rolls of Honour were copied and restored (following severe water damage to the originals after about five years in a leaking storeroom at the community centre). Now in a single frame, the Roll of Honour hangs in the committee room at the community centre.  

Association records, newspaper clipping, the memories of three chairpersons who served had served on the committee (in various capacities) over a twenty-year period, along with other documents, record many times when Kelvin Grove Progressive Association / Kelvin Grove Residents' Association advocated on behalf of the community, and usually involving Palmerston North City Council in some form. These activities include:

* Problems with noise from the old hall (perhaps a catalyst to forming Kelvin Grove Progressive Association) 1967-1970s.

* Smell etc. from Web Gratings’ (now Webforge) galvanising plant 1970s - company relocated plant to back of site because of ongoing neighbourhood complaints through and supported by Kelvin Grove Progressive Association. This problem is still monitored, but nowadays has a relatively clean bill of health.

* Concern over occasional problems - and potential problems - with the four fuel depots (Shell, Caltex, BP, Atlantic/Mobil) in very close proximity to the housing. Only Caltex now remains in a reduced form.

* Advocating for the removal of the Whakarongo railway deviation proposal that had been planned since the 1920s, and was still seemingly to go through Kelvin Grove in the latter 1970s. Part of this route is now McLeavey Drive.

* Actively promoting Neighbourhood Support over many years

* Actively promoting attempts to get a kindergarten over about two decades, including contributing funds at the latter stages. The kindergarten finally opened in c2000.

* Acting as the umbrella group to establish the Kelvin Grove Youth Group (Kelvin Grove Youth Group) to occupy the youth of the Kelvin Grove/Roslyn area in the latter 1980s and early 1990s.

* Supporting Kelvin Grove Youth Group and finally handing on Kelvin Grove Youth Group’s vehicle and funds in the latter 1990s, to assist Kelvin Grove Salvation Army to fill the breach after Kelvin Grove Youth Group closed.

* Assisting other groups to start, including pre-school groups, then unfortunately helping them when they eventually disbanded. In the cases of the pre-schools, this was mostly due to lack of their own buildings and latterly the conditions imposed on such groups relating to tighter services and conditions (a set water temperature etc.) they were obligated to provide, but which the hall could not achieve due to the other people using it.

* Acting as a holding place for funds and equipment left over by groups closing down, including the table tennis club, Kelvin Grove Playcentre and two other pre-school groups and Kelvin Grove Youth Group. These funds were subsequently passed on to appropriate recipients along the lines of the original groups.

* Ongoing agitation over the need for improved street lighting in Kaimanawa Street and other places around Kelvin Grove.

* Requests for tree plantings and other forms of street and reserve beautification.

* Participating in the planning and organisation of children’s play equipment and other equipment at community reserves, as well as the ongoing attempt to obtain public toilets and other amenities for the suburb.

* Successful agitation over the years for street lighting in various parts of Roberts Line, including the 1998 revamping and lighting of the Roberts Line-Napier Rd. intersection.

* Many years of agitation over various railway crossings due to safety matters, most recently the James Line intersection (lights now installed), but more usually the Kelvin Grove Road crossing. This latter case has included attempts to have an overpass built there and having the shunting times adjusted as they clashed with children finishing school. The portion of the siding that formerly caused the problem has now been removed altogether.

* Advocating for many years - including a substantial petition in 1987 - for a pedestrian crossing in Shelley Street to accommodate school children. Eventually this happened.

* Actively working to improve traffic safety in Kelvin Grove by slowing through-traffic, especially articulated trucks, through use of speed cameras, road signage and complaints to trucking firms. Also new or replacement footpaths requested for needy areas around the suburb.

* Actively working to prevent lower Roberts Line having its name changed for historical and practical reasons. This was achieved.

* Prolonged attempts to have a public telephone returned to Kelvin Grove after the original one was removed in the 1980s due to vandalism. This has now been achieved.

* Long-standing attempts to get the bus route improved and extended through Kelvin Grove - finally success from 28/8/1998, perhaps because of negative attention drawn to the problem due to the Youth Justice Centre.

* Complaints about poor water service in 1980s resulting in the Roberts Line Pumping Station.

* Running community fun activities including Fun Days, Christmas Parties etc., over many years, including contributing funds to the Salvation Army to run the annual Christmas event in more recent - but pre-Youth Justice Centre days.

* Vocal in securing a Community Adviser to be based at the hall in the latter 1980s. This position was later withdrawn by Palmerston North City Council.

* An active participant in the process of establishing a community swimming pool in the north-east corner of Palmerston North. This pool was opened at Freyberg High School in 1998.

* Active, when necessary, in seeking the assistance of the Papaioea Ward Committee in relation to community issues.

* The major player in the successful process of stopping the road-building company Bitumix from occupying the former BP Depot on the corner of Shelley Street and Tremaine Ave., opposite Roslyn School. Doug Williams (then chairperson) led this campaign, arranging radio and newspaper coverage as well as visiting Bitumix’s Napier yard and inquiring into its New Plymouth yard. This protest involved a major public meeting (almost equalling the first Youth Justice Centre meeting), a significant petition, numerous protests and a very significant consultant’s fee regarding such things as potential emissions. Some local businesses privately gave moral support to the protest but avoided taking visible action in the interests of their businesses.

* The major player in successfully getting Supreme Auto Wreckers, Midhurst Street, to build a sand blasting facility instead of conducting sandblasting activities in a less desirable open-air situation. This included a petition, part of which vanished from a local shop.

* An active participant in the successful major battle to name Celaeno Park accordingly in early 1998, with a committee member as figurehead and spokesperson on behalf of both Kelvin Grove Residents' Association and the Scandinavian Club of Manawatu. The Manawatu Branch Committee of the Historic Places Trust and the Papaioea Ward Committee were also very actively involved.

* Administering the Kelvin Grove Community Centre since 1980, on behalf of Palmerston North City Council and the Kelvin Grove community, including purchasing items required for the hall that would not ordinarily be provided by Palmerston North City Council. This voluntary work saves Palmerston North City Council considerable time, effort and money that would otherwise be required to fulfil this function.

* The major player in unsuccessfully opposing the establishment of the Lower North Youth Justice Centre in Mohaka Place in late 1998. This included organising public meetings, a petition, negotiating and/or communicating with CYPFS, Dept. of Social Welfare, Palmerston North City Council and various other involved persons and organisations. Also organising and participating in legal action resulting in an unsuccessful Judicial Review of the Certificate of Compliance issued by Palmerston North City Council to the Dept. of Social Welfare. We could not afford to appeal this decision, nor could we fund-raise toward this in the 21 days available to do so. This was especially complicated by the release of the judgment late on 23 December 1998, it being delivered to our lawyers just minutes before their firm (like legal firms traditionally do) closed for about three weeks holiday. The Lower North Youth Justice Centre subsequently opened in October 1999.

* There are also a great many other things that Kelvin Grove Residents' Association and its predecessors have done as advocates for the Kelvin Grove community over many years. This is an ongoing role.  

It is well known in city circles that traditionally Kelvin Grove is extremely volatile when aroused. This volatility can be traced back to the struggle to have Kelvin Grove School built in 1893 – thus well before the lifetimes of the modern inhabitants of the suburb. Kelvin Grove was a distinct rural community just outside the original town boundary – then at the site of the railway line. This railway line also marks the present boundary of the Rangitikei Electorate (which includes Kelvin Grove).

The railway line that bounds Kelvin Grove on three sides (the Hawkes Bay and Main Trunk lines), therefore, provides a distinct social perimeter to the Kelvin Grove community in a number of ways, just as it provides a form of physical boundary that is – and has been since the 1870s – well recognised as such by the Kelvin Grove community.

Compiled by Val Burr (1998-2001)

Last Updated: 1 January 2007