build their way to
ONE of the biggest of recent community building projects is being pushed ahead on a commanding site over-looking the rich farmland of the Waipa County about three miles from Frankton Junction. It is the New Zealand College of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (the Mormons). The magnificent campus is quickly taking shape and the spacious buildings are well underway. In a few years time they will be crowded with some 450 Maori and pakeha boys and girls taking part in a great experiment in residential, interracial co-education.
The college is scheduled to open in 1957. But, as far as President David O. McKay, the world leader of the Mormons, is concerned it is already open. No students have been enrolled but President McKay considers the college is already playing its part in the community by training over 100 young men in trades and teaching them to become leaders in society. These are the missionary workmen who are building their college in that spirit of service which is one of the dominant principles of the Mormon Church.
Te Ao Hou visited the site of the college shortly after President McKay made his inspection. It was easy to understand his gratification at the results of the work. The place was busy as an ant hill. The big, airy buildings rang with the sound of hammer and saw. Trucks plies up and down the wide driveways delivering load of materials. Machinery whirred and roared a
it turned over every conceivable product which is required to complete an undertaking of the size of this one. A conservative estimate is that it will cost from 4 to 4 ½ million dollars or £1 ¼ million.
The cost in dollars is impressive enough but what is of greater value to New Zealand is the community spirit which is being developed here and the opportunities which exist for young men to learn skilled trades. Very few of the volunteers for mission work have had any training when they arrive at the college but they are willing learners. They are under skilled foremen or crew leaders. A crew is another name for a gang.
“As we have to teach them all that we want them to do,” says Elder P. W. Brown, the college supervisor, “we are, in a roundabout way, teaching them crafts and trades which they can use to their personal advantage later on.”
There is no laxity on the part of the foremen
It is to the credit of all concerned that the standard of workmanship is high and is improving as the workmen become more familiar with the job. Team work is essential for a project like this one but the machinery of organisation is so finely set that it is possible, at the same time to treat each man as an individual and to ensure that he learns sufficient to provide him with a vocation suited to his ability and temperament.
Nine houses for married permanent residents and a spacious, well equipped joinery shop have been built since the scheme was launched three years ago. Five classrooms are nearly finished and the girls' and boys' dormitories, each capable of holding 225 students, have been started. A crew is also kept continuously busy erecting temporary homes for those arriving to begin their missions and another gang has begun work on a 12-unit car park.
All the workers are not church members. At least half-a-dozen who are “interested” have signed on for periods ranging from six months to two years. The total staff numbers 154, of which 58 are married couples, 96 single men, one a widow and three single girls. The married women have their own homes to attend to but working under Sister J. Brown, they have formed committees which look after the welfare and domestic life of the camp.
Maoris are playing a major part in the construction work and the general life of the camp. Actually, they are responsible for about 85 per cent of the undertaking. Ten of them are leaders or assistant leaders of the 17 crews and some, like Jim Hapeta, who left his home in Northland three and a half years ago to do mission work, are among the mainstays of the project.
Jim Beazley, who lives in the Waikato, is another who has been with the college community since the beginning. He is now in charge of the important brick plant which is operated by a crew composed almost entirely of Maoris. To show how important and efficient this section of the work is they make all the bricks for the
After satisfying the demand for local projects the brick-making crew were able, a month ago, to send a shipment of 5,500 bricks to help their cousins in the Cook Islands erect a chapel at Rarotonga. But this is not all. The crew is actually two months ahead of schedule with supplies and has been able to go to Hastings as a body and help with the project there on the spot.
One of the most satisfying tasks and one calling for a great deal of individual effort, imagination, and artistic skill is that of the landscape gardening crew under Matt Tarawa, of Auckland. No members of other crews have their heart in their job more than these boys. They form all the lawns and gardens around the homes of the permanent residents and they are loath to interrupt their planning and forming to undertake less creative work.
Elder S. Crawford, who comes from Bridge Pa, Hastings, is among the important administrators. It is largely due to his efforts as personnel director that the camp has such a happy and hardworking community. The task is a delicate one calling for much diplomacy and a deep personal knowledge of men and women.
He interviews all new recruits and irons out many problems in the course of his duties but it says much for the human material which he handles that grievances are rarely reported to him.
The college community is largely self-sufficient. It has its own canteen, barber's shop and picture show. There is also an orchestra and a concert committee which looks after the entertainment of the residents. Transport is provided to take them from the camp to Hamilton on late shopping nights and to visit the hospitals throughout the week.
Among the plant which helps to maintain supplies for the building project and to reduce costs are the college's privately-owned sawmill near Kaikohe and its quarry near Whatawhata. All these materials are transported to the site in the church's trucks. Cement is imported from the United States at a rate of 1,500 bags a month and is used not only for the buildings but also to make fencing posts and roof tiles. The college also has its own electrical engineering staff.
Although there is 1,280 acres of first-class farming land surrounding the college buildings future students will receive equal training in other subjects besides agriculture. Teaching will be on a secondary level and will conform to all the requirements of the New Zealand Education Department. There will be classes in home economics and training in trades such as woodwork, electrical engineering, and welding. Later on adults wanting to take refresher courses or further study in any subject provided at the college will be enrolled.
Members of any religious denomination will be able to attend but preference will be given to Mormons. All will be required to abide by the principles, rules and regulation of the church and although the Mormon doctrine will be taught those who subscribe to other beliefs will not be compelled to accept it.
The college is a worthy successor to the old Mormon Maori Agricultural College, near Hastings, which was destroyed in the earthquake in 1931. It is also a tribute to those staunch members of the faith, who, for many years, advocated filling the gap which the institution's loss caused in Maori education. They approached successive presidents of the church to have another college built. Finally, during the war, President Matthew Cowley, a constant friend of the Maori people, persuaded the authorities at Salt Lake City to replace the college. Thus, he achieved what has been his lifelong desire to complete the chain of colleges through the Pacific which began at Samoa, was extended to Tonga, and which now has a further link in the college taking shape between Tuhikaramea and Frankton Junction.