Built in 1897, Ponsonby Community Centre was initially a school, called the Ponsonby side school. It was purchased by Council in 1958 for use as a hall.
The building of the harbour bridge in 1959, and subsequent motorway developments across St. Mary's Bay were having devastating effects on the local community. Some 200 families, many of whom had been there sine the 1860’s, were forced to move out, while better transport to outer suburbs allowed others to leave the inner city. Short term "renters" began to take their place - increasing numbers of rural Maori and pacific peoples from island states seeking work.
Peter Harwood had received a rotary fellowship to the United Kingdom and had seen the re-development after world war two. He was impressed by the CAB movement that had begun. Council appointed him to set up the country's first CAB at Ponsonby Community Centre, and to report on what council could do to improve and better manage its urban renewal.
An embarrassing camp-out with Betty Wark and the street youth prompted council to house them in the Centre and subsequently arranged for her the first halfway house in O'Neill street, further activating council's role in community development.
Some time later, a former adviser recalls the wad of dollars offered by the king Cobras when council wouldn't spend any money on the Centre. The work was finally done when the Tongan princess was due to come and open the Tongan pre-school.
In August 2012, the Ponsonby Community Centre took over the management of the Leys Institute Gymnasium Hall. The gymnasium hall play a key part in our local community being a place in which recreational activities took place such as basketball, gymnastics and boxing. Built in 1905 it is rich in history and will continue to be a key connection place for our Ponsonby community.
Ponsonby has been full of the famous and infamous, plans and issues, community and controversy, but the spirit of the Centre and its workers was most poignantly recorded by Fred Ellis, " a homeless person came in and I took him home!" There are many stories about events, individuals and initiatives attributed to this Centre. The people and the facility have provided a warm, supportive, local environment which encouraged initiatives that have impacted on many of our lives locally, citywide and nationally.