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Diversity Centre takes shape in South Auckland

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

When the new multi-storey building of the Indian Association of New Zealand (IANZ), formerly known as Manukau Indian Association (MIA) opens its doors sometime in November, it would inaugurate a new chapter in community ownership and fructify the ambition of a handful of people who have invested their time, effort and other resources.

Among them is Veer Khar, the principal architect of the project, not in its construction lexicon but as the man with the vision, mission and initiative.

With him are of course a few more, including IANZ Immediate Past President and current Second Vice-President and Chairman of Estates Committee Suresh Ramji, First Vice-President Ram Lingam and General Secretary Roy Kaunds.

As Mr Khar and Mr Ramji explained how the Project was progressing with its potential to offer facilities and services, there was justifiable and yet concealed pride in them. After all, it is not an easy task to execute a $4.5 million structure working entirely on voluntary basis. Raising the money is yet another matter.

Impressive Project

Located at 25 Tui Road (off Great South Road) in the South Auckland suburb of Papatoetoe, the new facility will boast of a number of facilities and amenities that could rival some of the larger, opulent and ‘branded’ venues in and around Auckland.

Called, ‘Diversity Centre,’ the property, constructed on land area of 2000 Sq Mts, owned and managed by the IANZ, towers over four floors, with the built-in possibility of rising higher as needs grow in the coming years.

Four Floors of Excellence

The ground floor will accommodate offices or showrooms, lobby, gymnasium and space for up to 70 cars to park.

The First Floor, accounting for about 500 Sq Mts, will be an ideal venue for entertainment, cultural and social programmes seating 500 people (Theatre Style) or cater to 280 diners at their tables.

“As well as a modern kitchen, this floor will have the latest multimedia technology. This is a self-contained area and guests would have access to Restroom and other facilities within the area,” Mr Khar said.

Education and Training Centre

The Second Floor (400 Sq Mts) will offer several possibilities.

“With flexible partitioning, this floor can at once be an education centre, training school, and a venue for small conferences, board meetings or lectures. Communities can conduct language and other classes for children, youth and adults if they so desire. This floor is also self-contained with kitchen, restroom and other facilities. Any event for about 200 persons can be conducted on this floor,” Mr Ramji said.

Apartments for Visitors and Refugees

The Third Floor was of special interest to us.

As Mr Khar explained, this floor would lift IANZ into an elevated level of service, not just for the Indian community but for anyone who seeks to use the facilities.

“Seven Independent Units for use as apartments for couples, shared accommodation for visitors to Auckland or for those who wish to hire them on long term basis will be the feature of this floor. This could also be a centre for refugees. We propose to discuss these possibilities with our Members of Parliament and see if they could be of help,” Mr Khar said.

All the floors will be served by an elevator.

Mobilising Finance

IANZ is not exempt from the proverbial paucity of finance, which has challenged Mr Khar, Mr Ramji and their team from time to time. The Association is the preserve of common people and hence raising money, spending it with prudence and maintaining impeccable accounts are central and crucial to such organisations.

“IANZ is not a Millionaire’s Club but a community organisation aiming to serve a million people. We decided to work on a 45-year-old freehold land owned by the Association and commenced construction activities with a grant of $800,000 from the Lotteries Commission. There have been many other organisations that have donated funds toward this Project,” Mr Khar said.

A few among them are Foundation North ($300,000), Grassroots Trust ($200,000), Akarana Community Trust ($200,000) and First Sovereign Trust ($100,000).

“This purpose-built property has been designed for use by any organisation or individual to promote their personal, community or social programmes and projects. This ‘Diversity Centre’ will live up to its name and cater to the growing communities in Auckland. Public funds have been invested into its development and it should therefore serve everyone,” Mr Khar said.

About IANZ

IANZ has come a long way from humble beginnings in 1979 when it started, in hired rooms, as an informal school to teach Indian children their mother tongue. Then known as the South Auckland Indian Cultural Society Inc, the main aim was to preserve and promote Indian culture, hold language classes, celebrate festivals and pass this heritage on to a new generation.

“The world around us, the diaspora and our original name has changed, but not our original objectives remain the same. Our Association is perhaps the only community entity that has people from all religious beliefs. This is reflected in our Executive Committee,” Mr Khar said.

“The existing building of the Association (57 Hillside Road, Papatoetoe) will continue to be available for hire for various activities,” he added.


Author: Venkat Raman


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