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Ahi Kōmau – Gemmells on Parade opened

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A decade-long dream was realised on Saturday with the grand opening of Ahi Kōmau – Gemmells on Parade in Wairoa.

The celebration buzzed with excitement as the multifaceted revitalisation, home to three local businesses, was revealed.

The 184 Marine Parade rebuild blends the old with the new, paying tribute to the site's history but with eyes firmly set on the future.

The concrete industrial shell, open courtyard and free-flowing spaces are modern and functional with a metro vibe.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little Craig described the rebuild journey, which spanned more than 10 years, as turbulent. He reflected on the 2012 main street fire in the top storey of the building, which impacted the three businesses below, including the hardware store of former Deputy Mayor and stalwart of the town Angus Gemmell who the site is named after.

“We were fortunate to secure funding through the Provincial Growth Fund, supported by NZ First MP and the Prince of the Provinces, the Hon. Shane Jones and Cameron Osmond PrincipalRegional Advisor, Hawkes Bay, forKānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit.”

Mr Little acknowledged the many people who had contributed to bringing the vision together. “Not everyone could see the benefits of what we were trying to achieve within the funding criteria. Thank you to those who believed in what we were doing, supported the vision and helped bring it together. We are not finished yet. There are still finishing touches to be carried out, and then we will begin on next door, the former Winter’s building.”

Mr Little said while the celebration marked the opening of the redevelopment and welcomed the new tenants, the rebuild complements what is already in Wairoa, and the focus must be on supporting our whole town and all local businesses.

Wairoa Deputy Mayor Denise Eaglesome-Karekare described the rebuild as a model for how Wairoa can move on in its recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle. “This is the result of a vision and collaboration and shows what can happen when our community unites.”

Cameron Osmond described the tremendous effort to achieve the milestone and acknowledged everyone who had been part of the often-challenging journey that spanned a pandemic and cyclone.

Katie Nimon, National MP for the Napier electorate, said Wairoa is at the electorate's heart, describing the district as full of vitality and energy with huge potential, particularly as a tourism destination. She encouraged the community to make the most of the new development. “Use it, enjoy it and make this your place.”

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Transforming the Marine Parade burnt-out buildings site has been a community dream for more than a decade.     

In 2012, a fire burnt and gutted the main street top storey historic building with three significant commercial businesses damaged by water and smoke from the blaze.  

Marine Parade shops Cafe Jafa, Angus Gemmell Ltd hardware store and Bradbury Jeweller initially all went on to relocate and continue operating, while the prime main street site remained derelict and burnt out. 

Described as a ‘dangerous eyesore,’ the site drew attention when the owner sold the property the year after the fire for $1.

In 2020, a successful application through the Central Government Provincial Growth Fund saw funding allocated for a main street rebuild focusing on transforming the burnt-out building site.

Over the last three years, the project has been challenged by COVID-19 lockdowns, spiralling costs, supply issues, weather events, and Cyclone Gabrielle earlier in the year. 

Wairoa District Council remained committed to the development and secured additional external funding to counteract rising costs.

The new development features a courtyard space and houses three businesses focusing on hospitality, retail and training. Three tenants have been secured for the space: Gemmells – Café, Bar and Restaurant owned by Layton and Ange Gemmell, Beauty Antix beauty treatment business owned by Amber Forrest and Jays Nutribox owned by Jay Byun.

The new site has been named Ahi Kōmau – Gemmells on Parade and focuses on delivering a multi-functional connected town centre that celebrates Wairoa’s unique heritage and culture.

18 December 2023

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