Closure of Opawa Toy Library 'huge blow'

Posted 09 Aug 2012 by MediaStuff Popular
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Bryan Pratt
"HUGE BLOW": Opawa Toy Library president Bryan Pratt and his daughter Tess, 4, start moving toys out of the Sandwich Rd building after an engineering report found the building to be below 34 per cent of the new building code.

Volunteers from the Opawa Toy Library will begin the arduous task of moving more than 2500 toys into storage this weekend after being told they will have to shut down immediately.

A Christchurch City Council detailed engineering evaluation (DEE) has found the library's Sandwich Rd building is below 34 per cent of the new building standard.

Library president Bryan Pratt said the closure was a ''huge blow'' for the service, which provided toys for more than 900 children in the community.

''It's a very popular service for families all over Christchurch and a big setback. We really didn't want to close. There's now a massive amount of work to do but we want to reopen.''

The library will begin shifting out of the building on Sunday and put the toys into storage until they found new premises.

Pratt said it had been proving difficult.

''We need a space of about 120 metres squared. As a community organisation we don't have the funds for a commercial lease so it's proving difficult. What we're looking at right now is renting a three-bedroom home, where the rent is cheaper, but then there are issues of insurance.''

The closure of the building did not come as a surprise to Pratt, in spite of the fact it was still in a ''good condition'' after the earthquakes.

''We knew it was old and the new building code is very strict even though the building only had cosmetic damage after the quakes. We were expecting this outcome but it doesn't make it any easier.''

It has been a long two years for the volunteers at the library. They were forced to move out of Sandwich Rd after the September 2010 earthquake, but their new premises in Sydenham was then red-stickered in February 2011.

In May 2011 they moved back into the Sandwich Rd building, but had to close for two weeks again in June while more inspections took place.

The stress had been taking its toll, Pratt said.

''A lot of the volunteers here are dealing with their own repairs or red-zoning on their house, as well as our normal day jobs and busy lives. It's been tough.''

The council had told Pratt it may be two or three years before they knew when, or even if, the building would be repaired.

''We understand they have a lot of buildings and that a toy library won't necessarily be at the top of the list. The council have actually been fantastic in keeping us updated and giving us warning.''

It was a second hit for the community, as the Christchurch South Library was also recently closed by the city council.

''Two valuable community services have been lost. At the end of the day this shows that even two years after the earthquakes they're still affecting the area and causing difficulties,'' Pratt said.


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