1 Mill Road, Regent, Whangarei (corner Mill Road and Deveron St)



The Reverend Neil Fuge, Vicar of Whangarei looked at Christ Church, the largest church in his Parish with new eyes. He saw a beautiful modern building not being used to its full potential. He saw the land on which the church was sited shaped like a triangle pointing towards the city, and linked this with the need to take the ministry of Jesus Christ to the market place.
He shared this vision with a few faithful people who met regularly to pray that this ministry might become a reality. There were also discussions with the leaders of St Andrews Uniting Church who had developed a community outreach in the form of a Medical Centre in the city. Alterations to the church were considered in order to provide an operational base for Christian outreach ministry to both Church and community but proved to be too expensive.

Financing the programme required both the vision and the ability to convince others of its value. Neil was a Whangarei person born and bred and grew up with many of the local business people.
He shared his vision with a selected group of these business people and $20,000 was promised and given over a three-year period. Additional grants from charitable trusts such as the LW Nelson Trust, the J R McKenzie Trust and the Charles Scott Trust were sufficient for the work to begin. Also, as part of the plan, people were invited to contribute to the project by giving $20 per year and became known as ‘Friends’ of the Care Centre.They were also invited to select two members as representatives to the Trust Board. Many of these friends continue to pray and support the ministry.


The project started initially with prayer on Friday lunchtime both with and for people. There was a group of willing pray-ers to do this who worked in pairs on a roster. Even at this early stage a variety of people dropped in who were listened to and helped in various ways. As this practical work was going on – in the background a much greater vision was forming. At this point the ministry was developing according to the various skills of those who were members of the Care Centre team rather than as a specifically qualified social service.
Bruce MacGregor, a parishioner and solicitor, did the legal work to set up the Whangarei Anglican Care Trust. The deed of trust was dated 22 March1994, and legal charitable trust status was granted in August 1994. The Vestry of the Parish along with Neil Fuge appointed the original board of trustees. These were Neil, the Vicar, as Chairperson, Fay Beaumont and Ron Galbraith as the other trustees. The inaugural meeting of the Trust on 13th April, 1994 included the ‘Friends’ who elected two members to the Board, who were Rona Mackie and Bruce Postlewaite. The original trust deed has only had one change throughout the years.


The Trust Board continued to meet frequently developing policy and ministry guidelines. It was decided to advertise for a Director/Counsellor and from the applicants the Reverend Paul Bathurst was chosen. He was employed for 25 hours a week and was commissioned on the 24th. July 1994. A man of wide vision, gifted with compassion, Paul set up and supervised the practical working structure of the Care Centre and set up the processes of its operation.
The Choir Vestry room in Christ Church was chosen to house the Care Centre. As sufficient funds were available necessary alterations were made. These included re-locating a wall and extending the choir room, which became the training room and reception area. A small office was provided for Paul, (currently the office of the Parish Office Co-Coordinator) and counselling space was provided on the mezzanine floor/organ loft of the Church. A carpeted area and moveable screens provided some privacy although not much. One of the early presenting needs was for emergency food distribution and a foodbank had been developed in the Parish Office which was at that time in the Parish Hall. This created some problems as many journeys back and forth between the Centre Office and the Parish Office needed to be made to deal with the emergency food requirements of the clients.In September 1994, twenty eager people with a range of experience and qualifications expressed a willingness to exercise ministry in various areas, such as typing, reception, packing food, counselling, budgeting, prayer, making meals and cups of tea, shopping, driving, fundraising, looking after workers and interviewing. They were devoted to the work, committed to its effectiveness, keen to learn and firm in the Christian faith. Most were members of the Parish although very early on there were members of other churches who made the ministry ecumenical by their presence.
It was decided to open 9.00 am –3.00 pm Monday to Friday. Later this was extended to 9.00 am – 4.00 pm. Someone prayed every morning for the work in the Centre and was available to pray with clients every lunch-time.
At times the expectations of clients and helpers differed when defining what was ‘prayer’ and ‘counselling’.
This became very evident when clients were asked to contribute something towards their counselling and they would consider that they had only come for prayer for which there was no charge.
However it appeared that many were clearly in need of counselling and were using the prayer time as a form of free counselling.

This led to a change in policy where prayer work became a phone-in option and counselling was a face to face session which could also incorporate prayer at the request of the client. When people could genuinely not afford to contribute, counselling would still be offered. Paul — with help from Jan Stewart, Margaret Patchet, Annette Galbraith and Peter Deane — carried out the counselling work. Paul was very good in the basic setting up of the Care Centre but became ill soon after accepting the position of Director. He resigned after the Christmas holidays of 94/95. When Paul left, Annette Galbraith was appointed acting-Director and three months later the Board appointed her as Director.
Early on in the ministry Diana Court, an experienced social worker, counsellor and a tutor of counsellors in training, came to Whangarei and gave simple basic training of counselling principles to both the Care Centre staff and others. This allowed people to see the enormity of the undertaking and the on-going skills, training and support that would be required to function effectively.
Almost immediately a young Samoan woman came to us referred by the court. The care required for her and the attention to her needs taught everyone a huge amount. The Centre’s ministry kept her out of Preventive Detention and gave her some encouragement to handle her life more successfully. This was one of the tasks for which the Centre was paid (the first government contract!) as most other work was unpaid.
There was great excitement when someone felt able to give a donation for services rendered. About this time Wendy Reinsfield came in, a counsellor looking for counselling practice to go with her diploma in counselling. Of course there was a certain amount of sitting around until a client base grew so she would do other work like budgeting and prayer. Working days were busy with organizing training for budgeters, advocacy, understanding government agencies, planning and courses. There was one on ‘the five languages of love’ run by Peter, an abuse recovery course guided by Wendy and another with Judith Stuchbery who had joined also as a trainee counsellor.
From the beginning the Care Centre began to develop codes of practice and operating manuals with the aim of establishing consistency and high standards for the welfare of clients and staff.
The Church, Choir Loft, Vicar’s Vestry room and Chapel were in frequent use. At the same time Christ Church was being shared with the Catholic community who were in the process of building a new church so there were two sets of organ practice, many funerals and other church based ministries, which all had to share the seemingly small space with the growing Care Centre.
Friday was shared lunch day and burnt toast from the old flip-up toaster reminded various congregations that it was indeed lunch-time! Remembering back still brings blushes for some other faux pas that were made like the time someone cooked and burnt rice in the Quiet Room at the back of the church and the odour wafted across a funeral congregation. There was no air freshener available to change that smell!
Shared lunch days were also good discussion times too when other lively thinkers and talkers came in to eat with the workers. Actually it was a time when care-givers sat beside care-takers and it was interesting to see a very different ministry happening. Staff and clients were frequently challenged in their beliefs and some highly stimulating discussions arose on all manner of subjects. Yet it is to the credit of all staff that there was never a complaint from clients that Christian faith or ‘religion’ was ever pressed upon them.
The Care Centre quickly gained a good reputation with other agencies, with the public and with other churches. One of its ministries was providing in-service training for people previously unemployed, or who were re-training or up-skilling to widen their employment options. Government employment programmes such as Task Force Green provided a source of carefully selected staff to work primarily in office and reception roles both learning new skills and contributing to the life and work of the Care Centre. The wages for these folk came from the government programme.
Jessie Brosnahan, from WINZ Task Force Green programme in 1995 was the first of many of the office workers, Jill’s of all trades, who carried out a wide variety of tasks. They were gracious, obliging, strong and practical do-anything-for-everybody people that the Care Centre could not do without. People include Glenda Olliff, Donna Smith, Leeanne Quinn, Sarah Welsh, Ashleigh Latimer, Donna Williams and Denise Bucknell. Many developed their skills considerably and brought skills with them that enhanced the Care Centre life and ministry. Mihi Mahanga was the last of the Task Force Green helpers and her placement was at Selwyn Park Rest Home.
Office and administrative tasks had grown and changed with more detailed job descriptions. With additional staff, greater compliance requirements, increased workload, and government contracts the Care Centre Office administration was a major ministry. Volunteers have always been an added strength to the work. Margaret Mead and Catherine Stevenson helped in many capacities – that Margaret also did wonders with flowers and was a great contributor to the shared lunches was a huge bonus.
Budgeting developed early on as a vital part of dealing with foodbank clients, many of whom had few skills in basic home and financial management. Later it became a qualified programme in which people were trained and certificated to the national standards.
There were also counsellors in training who needed ‘client hours’ to complete their training requirements or to complete hours post training to become full members of their professional counselling organisation.
If the Care Centre had done nothing else but enable Christian Counsellors and Budget Advisers to complete their training it would have achieved a worthwhile goal – but of course it did much more.


In these early days the food bank was kept in a cupboard in the Parish Hall. Each time food was needed a volunteer had to walk across the extensive church grounds, cross the road, unlock the cupboard and collect the food. The too-ing and fro-ing was sometimes a problem especially in wet weather. Thank God there were lots of people who left their umbrellas behind in the church, the big golf umbrellas proving especially useful!
Food-bank demands increased and the choir cupboard was taken over after having a lock fitted for security (some clientele were very light fingered!) An alcove was made for the office (by the toilet) and a folding door provided to lock it when the church used the space. Handyman Barry did a great job with these ‘bits and pieces’ tasks.
People came in with every kind of story – lots of different ones: At times a large family group would appear with a request for a food parcel and take over the whole area. This could be rather disconcerting having a number of strangers wandering around the building ‘just having a look’. While it was understood that help was being asked for, it was not always clear from the beginning what the real needs were.
All who came in with a request for food, money, a bed, advice to make their money go round, family and personal issues were listened to. Sometimes there were doubts about their genuineness but they were handled with respect. Sharpened awareness of the facts and the growing skills and experience of the interviewer helped to identify the appropriate action to be taken by the Care Centre staff or volunteers.
Not only did it take quite a while to build up a liaison with Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ), the government agency dealing with people on benefits, but also with the other foodbank agencies. Once this occurred we could more effectively help people and put a stop to some of the ‘cruising’ of the foodbank network. It also meant that we could explore with clients the underlying issues rather than give easy handouts.
Eventually there was a risk of the food bank dominating the Care Centre and it took a large number of people to just pack food. Love-Link, a free service where people could collect food and goods, was also operating at that time. Unfortunately it became an ineffective service because too many people took too much – sometimes for re-sale. For a time the Care Centre had helped with Love Link but the philosophies and the type of help was too different. At this time people who operated food banks around the city began to work together, sharing knowledge, food and information as to how to best meet peoples’ needs and also identify the hunters and gatherers! There were people who just went around to all the outlets and abused the system. Being a doormat is not being the best help! Sometimes messages came from Auckland about someone doing the rounds but usually they wanted more than food.
At the same time those coming for counselling increased, often making appointments by phone or coming in off the street in response to the sandwich boards on the footpath that proclaimed the Centre’s purpose. These people did not easily mix with the food seekers and this caused some tensions.
In the end it was decided that the Food Bank was not where the Care Centre’s primary ministry lay. It became too difficult to juggle the foodbank with other services offered and there was insufficient space to do both. The food bank users often came with the whole family. When food no longer was the major thrust of the centre any supplies that came up by the boot or vanload from the Auckland City Mission was redirected straight to the Salvation Army foodbank and this practice continues today.
Today the Care Centre and the Anglican Christ Church each operate a small emergency foodbank but they are not advertised.

They are used as immediate relief for budget clients where a real need is identified and an effort is being made to change a situation. In the Church’s case it is at the discretion of the leadership.
With the end of the foodbank as a major ministry of the Care Centre many people were released for other roles.
Collecting the surplus bread about three times a week was one less routine job that required volunteers.


The Care Centre is a helping agency and some of the people who call are seriously distressed, mentally ill and in a generally precarious state. Some things that happened were horrific like the person who came in for help and later committed suicide. On another occasion someone needing help went berserk in the church! This created a very tense situation and a rising of more than one person’s anxiety level above normal.
Staff and volunteers needed to be able to put aside at the end of the day the sometimes heart-breaking situations they dealt with, knowing they had done all that they could. It is always difficult to do but these folk had family and personal lives of their own and needed their emotional energy for themselves. Because crisis care situations sometimes involved most of the staff on duty the encouragement of others and the ability to work through the situation and de-brief when the crisis was over is really important.
However confidence grew as experience was gained but the need for competent supervision for the workers was recognised as being really important.
Due to the large number of clients with mental health problems, Mike Fish, a Baptist pastor, set up a group called ‘Heart and Soul’, which ran every week as a Christian support group for those who struggled to stabilize their mental health. This group helped a number of people to manage their lives with greater success and eventually re-located to the Kamo Baptist Church.


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Many people who need emergency food have significant problems managing their finances. The whole concept of budgeting is a great way to help people who want to be helped to manage their money successfully and many people have been empowered to do so through the budgeting service. Much time could be wasted offering help to people who actually didn’t want to make changes but really wanted to find someone to take away the debt and make it all better. It can be really rewarding work as very small changes can turn a person’s life around and bring hope for the future.
Gwen Turner was one of the early volunteers for budget advice and she was assisted along the way by many other volunteers.


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It was during 1997, with increasing pressure on the space available in the church, a Parish owned house at 2 Kamo Road was suggested as an alternative. There were all sorts of feasibility studies done, but in the end it became too difficult to reach agreement and find the money required to make the changes. There were also severe limits to the usefulness of a two-storeyed house with no downstairs toilet.
Another proposal was to convert the Parish Hall or part of it into a Care Centre and move the Parish Office into the church.A somewhat decrepit Parish house at 1 Mill Road was being used by Te Kohanga Reo as an office, (the Maori language pre-school networks), and by NURM (Northern Urban/Rural Mission).
However with the centralisation of the Te Kohanga Reo offices, NURM courteously agreed to move to the Parish Hall.
This meant that the house became available in October 1998 for the Care Centre with the Maori Pastorate retaining the use of one room.

As a result of this there was now more room and better facilities for the drop-in ministry. It was an excellent location on the corner of Deveron Street and Mill Road and was just over the road from the church. The house needed a lot of renovation, the foundations of the house had collapsed; one wall had dropped out of the ceiling joists, sitting at the dining table on the sloping floor required some balancing skills. There were windows that wouldn’t open, a pohutukawa tree growing on the side of the chimney and the state of the ablutions facility was very primitive.
However Max and Leith did invaluable work at that time, tightening the scrim and painting every room. Paint for the exterior was donated by a supplier and help was arranged with fencing for a child supervision area by the Periodic Detention people. Electrician Ray did a great job tidying up the vintage power system.
In spite of the state of the house it was the first separate home for the Care Centre and we were all very proud of it. Two telephone lines, emergency buttons, rooms that could be left set up – what a lovely feeling for staff and volunteers to be in a place that became home for us – ‘The White House’ as it became affectionately known!
The White House had one other advantage. The old and run-down appearance made many clients feel quite at home. No acres of gleaming glass and polished wood; no slick and luxurious décor to cause people to feel on unfamiliar ground!
Unfortunately the Deveron Street fencing was damaged on more than one occasion by road accidents at the Deveron Street/Mill Road intersection causing some uncomfortable dramas. On more than one occasion a car crashed right through the fence and took out the corner of the house veranda. Fortunately no children were in the area at the time and no-one was sitting on the veranda chairs! In spite of pleas to the Council, including a newspaper article highlighting the hazards of the corner with caring agencies on three sides of the intersection, it took some years for the corner to be fitted with barriers and lane markers.


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In 1999 Cathy Tawera moved to Whangarei when her husband obtained a job with The James Family Centre, a family counselling agency. Cathy was appointed as Assistant Co-ordinator to share the load with Annette and was welcomed with a memorable powhiri.

Cathy had extensive experience with Government agencies and was knowledgeable with funding applications. Having previously worked for The Children and Young Persons Family Service (CYPFS) she was familiar with the way the Service worked and also knew many of the social workers. Her particular counselling skills lay in working with young people at risk. She was able to take the Care Centre forward into new areas of ministry and work.
This began with supervised access for children who needed a safe environment to meet with their families of origin under formal supervision requirements. Child Youth and Family began to contract other work to the Centre involving counselling disturbed young people.
Annette and Cathy shared the administration load until Cathy became established in her role. Annette retired from her role as Director at the Care Centre around May 2000. Annette had guided the Care Centre through its remarkable first seven years of life and development with skill, good humour and an abiding and strong faith. Having started as one of the founders of the Centre, she served as a volunteer, acting Director and then Director and has always retained a great interest in its progress.


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As the ministry of the Care Centre grew it became obvious there was a growing need for help with the administration work.
Bren Butcher had been working as one of the team of volunteers assisting in the Parish Office where his admin skills soon became known and valued. Fortunately he accepted the challenge to join the team at the Care Centre, not because of the high salary and late model car, but rather the chance to work in high stress circumstances in the White House in a ministry he believed in. He received a very modest out-of-pocket expense allowance initially. At one stage, when money was in high demand and there was uncertainty as to how we were going to pay the month’s expenses, even that allowance wasn’t paid.

It was quite some time, in fact, before Bren received very minimal wages for the high stress job (which he saw as a ministry) that he was doing.
The stress came from two primary sources; one was the precarious financial situation that we teetered from month to month, and the second was that the various accounts that any social service agency incurs may not be able to be paid by the due date.