Kenepuru is primarily an industrial area southwest of the city centre, but it's an important part of Porirua and has its own past, present and future.
After the warehouses and wrecking yards of Kenepuru's industrial quarter sits Spicer Landfill. It's not an obvious attraction, but this is the home of the rather marvellous Trash Palace.
Billed as a recycling and education centre, Trash Palace (www.trashpalace.co.nz) opened for business in 2002. It's been wildly successful - each year, an estimated 1000 tonnes of loot is diverted from landfill, cleaned up and redistributed to grateful locals.
Trash Palace's prices are rock bottom, especially the "package deals;" furnish your office ($65), kitchen ($90) or entire home ($395). Others try their luck on the Free Market Days when a variety of goods are offered for free from 10am on the last Tuesday of each month. There's something uplifting about this real-life testimony that one person's waste is another person's treasure.
But that's only half the story. Trash Palace's revenue is ploughed back into initiatives like a recycling-education programme for schools - and, importantly, employment for mental-health patients (something sorely needed after the closure of long-stay wards at the Porirua Psychiatric Hospital). Many have gone on to paid employment, citing the social interaction and sense of belonging they had at Trash Palace as crucial cogs in their reintegration. Little wonder, then, that Mana Recovery - the organisation which runs Trash Palace and helps workers into waged jobs - won the Green Gold category at the 2012 Wellington Business Awards.
The industrial area around Kenepuru Drive is home to scrap-metal dismantlers, joiners, plumbers, furniture makers, a Carters store for builders and renovators, and every type of automotive business imaginable. Opposite Porirua Autocrash Repairs is the ESR (Environmental Science and Research) Kenepuru Science Centre, where the nation's foremost experts on communicable disease, forensic science and toxicology beaver away.
Just around the corner is Wellington Seventh-Day Adventist School, a state-integrated, Years 1-8 primary educating around 70 students. Here, the Education Review Office observed that "classrooms are positive learning environments with students engaged in their work... in an environment where all cultures and persons are supported and included."
On Kenepuru's eastern flank is Bishop Viard College, a state-integrated Catholic secondary school which has a roll of 450 from Years 7-13, its own health service, sports teams across 17 codes, and numerous extra-curricular activities from debating to drama, public speaking to a Pacific Island "Polyclub."
However Kenepuru is perhaps best known for its hospital. The neighbourhood's long association with psychiatric care dates back to 1887. By 1905, when the Porirua Mental Asylum's grand two-storied brick fortress was completed, the hospital had over 500 patients, (and was also the largest employer in Porirua). But changing societal attitudes meant these monolithic institutions were gradually phased out. Only F Ward remains; now a fascinating Museum of Mental Health (open to the public) that shows how far we've come.
Some community and acute inpatient psychiatric health services continue to operate from within the Kenepuru hospital grounds.
As Porirua's population grew, so did the clamour for general hospital services. A temporary maternity unit was opened in 1957, superseded by the 47-bed Kenepuru Maternity Hospital in 1965. After decades of community lobbying, a 129-bed general hospital opened in 1979 and Kenepuru Community Hospital is still serving surrounding districts today. A local push for an emergency department paid off when Kenepuru's Accident & Medical Clinic opened in 2005.
Although mental-health in-patients and some staff live on hospital grounds, there is very little residential housing in Kenepuru; the pockets of homes glimpsed from Kenepuru Drive are actually part of the Wellington City suburb of Tawa. But although few sleep here, there's a lot of life by day, from the hard work taking place in Kenepuru's hospital, factories and warehouses through to the treasure hunters combing Trash Palace.