Mike Keenan, Community Development Officer for Kumara and Ross Town; Corrections Southern Regional Commissioner, Ben Clark and West Coast Probations Officer, Kelly Hill, Corrections West Coast Service Manager, and Simon Tam with the Chinese Miners' Memorial Reserve mythical lions. Corrections, along with the Kumara Residents Trust (KRT) and the Westland Region Environment Network INC (WREN), have joined forces again to work on two important projects in Kumara.

The organisations recently worked together on the West Coast Wilderness Trail, and have partnered up again for beautification work on the historic Kumara Baths and the development of the new Kumara Chinese memorial gardens.

“Corrections has a responsibility for ensuring that local offenders on community work complete their sentence and, in doing so, that they make a contribution to their local community,” says Corrections Service Manager Kelly Hill.

“An added bonus of these projects is the skills learnt along the way, and the pride and enjoyment the offenders gain from the work they have done.”

Kumara Chinese Miners' Memorial Reserve Concept Design (by Chris Glasson Landscape Architects).The Kumara Baths were built during the Depression in the 1930s, utilising rocks from local gold sluicing. For over a decade, the Kumara Baths were the largest swimming complex in New Zealand, drawing locals and visitors from far and wide. The Baths closed in the 1940s, when access to water from the Dillmanstown water supply dried up.

“The baths are an important part of our local history and the story of the West Coast,” says Mike Keenan, Community Development Officer for Kumara and Ross Town.
Kumara was the centre of significant mining activity from the 1860s and this had a dramatic effect on the local environment; with clearing of the bush, the digging of tunnels and the creation of huge mounds of tailings.

“The creation of the baths, during the Depression when the population and mining activity had declined, was seen as a great way of engaging the community in a project which utilised the tailings and would benefit, and be a source of great pride, for the local community,” says Mike.

The remains of the baths are overseen by the Kumara Residents’ Association and a recent Corrections community work project has seen the area tidied up. Corrections has offered to continue maintaining this popular tourist destination.

The other project is the development of the “Chinese Miners’ Memorial Reserve” garden.

“The Chinese garden will be a place of contemplation and acknowledges the Chinese connections to Kumara history and the role many Chinese had in the development of our town during the gold rush,” says Mike.

“It will also be a local tourist attraction alongside other important local sites.”

Building work on the Chinese garden, located near the eastern entrance to Kumara, is under way with two large mythical lions now in place marking the entrance.

“It is marvellous to have the support of Corrections in these important local projects. Without their engagement, it would be difficult to get these projects off the ground and know that there is commitment of labour to the ongoing maintenance of these sites,” says Mike.

“It is true when people say that our history is an important part of our future. No matter what other industry is created on the Coast, our environment and history will be central to growing tourism across the region.”

In 2015 more than 17,587 hours of community labour was provided in the West Coast by 254 offenders on community work sentences.

Community work requires offenders to complete unpaid work in the community, as a way of making up for their offending.  The sentence gives offenders an opportunity to take responsibility for their offending, learn new skills and work habits and contribute meaningfully to their local community.

“Corrections is proud to be playing a role in the building, maintaining and beautifying of our region,” Kelly says. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work on these projects, and be partnering again with WREN to make our environment and our history more accessible to local people and visitors to the Coast.”