The Seagull Centre

It’s been a while since I last blogged, I was a little tied up last week, but I wanted to share with you my excursion today to the Seagull Centre, a Community run Waste Reduction and Resource centre in Thames, in the Coromandel.

On it’s facebook page, the Seagull Centre describes itself as
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“A Salvage Centre offering affordable second hand goods to people living in our community. Inspiring people to reduce, reuse and recycle unwanted goods.”

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In my capacity as a trustee at the Waiheke Resources Trust, today I went on an excursion with ACZWA, the Auckland Community Zero Waste Alliance, to visit this site in Thames, to be shown around and to ask questions. There we met Trish Hatfield, Chair of the Seagull Trust, and John McKeowen the site manager.
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Site Manager John McKeowen speaks to ACZWA attendees in front of shed with solar panels and upcycled sculptures visible on the roof.

The Seagull Centre has a strong focus to try to keep stuff out of the earth. Landfill space is a valuable and diminishing commodity, and switched on communities around the world are increasingly recognising the need to slow down the rate at which we put our rubbish into the earth. And more and more are realising the value of what we might have previously just considered waste.

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There is no inorganic collection in the Thames area, but people are able to bring items to the centre for free, and if they are unable to do so, the Seagull Centre has a ute, donated to them by a local business, to go and collect them.

The Seagull Centre accepts and sells furniture, white-ware, electronics (all tested), computers, as well as clothes books and all the things you would expect to see in a second hand store.

The Seagull centre is self funded, and turns a profit, whilst saving the council and the community money on the cost of dumping! After an initial grant from their council the Centre and a low rent on council land, the Seagull Centre now employs 6 Full time equivalent staff, has funded its own expansion and is able to deliver grants to other community groups.

It does this even though it prides itself on its ‘community pricing’. The team at the Seagull Centre believe very strongly in sharing the benefits with the community. Most goods go straight back into the local community, and prices are kept very low.

There is free firewood for collection and gas heaters are sold for as little as $5 to help people keep warm in the winter months. John McKeowen tells me he could list and sell the items for more money on TradeMe, but prefers to keep things local.

I saw books sold at 5 for a dollar, Vinyl records 11 for a dollar, clothes sold by weight, big heavy whiteware items like ovens and dishwashers sold for $50 untested, exchangeable or returnable if they don’t work, and in clearance times, items like mattresses and furniture can go for $1 each!

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Septic field greenhouse! not one drop to ground!

The Seagull Centre is self sufficient for water and electricity, with rainwater collection, solar panels on the roof, and a clever composting toilet system that returns no water to the ground through a septic field of plants in a bathtub in a greenhouse made of old windows and doors!
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ACZWA visitors check out the dedicated workshop space, Trish Hatfield, Seagull Centre Trust Chair centre.

There is a real focus on education at the Seagull Centre, with workshops run out of a dedicated space and plans to expand the range of skills shared.

Last year people from the Seagull Centre supported the Thames Steampunk event, making props, and they intend to continue it this year.

In fact the Seagull Centre has big plans for the future, at the urging of the Thames-Coromandel District Council, to get even more involved in waste diversion.

Currently people going to the transfer station can visit the Seagull Centre first, donate goods, and then go to the tip with a lighter load, the new plans have all visitors to the tip going through the Seagull Centre to get there, with a recycling and sorting facility on site!

I managed to see a draft of these plans, and it looks like a great way to reduce the amount of waste Thames sends to landfill even further.

All in all it was a fantastic trip to a centre run by a team that are really passionate about reducing the amount of landfill their community produces, providing employment and skills to the locals, and providing quality cheap goods back into their community.

As John McKeowen put it simply today, “Everybody wins”

Good on you Seagull Centre.

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