Repair

Repair Cafe volunteer says “Bring your stuff and give it a second life”

Repair Cafes were first established in New Zealand in 2016 and have now popped up in six locations across the Auckland region.
Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

In a world of fast fashion, cheap appliances and rapidly obsolete electronics, a group of repairers are urging people to think twice before throwing things into the landfill.

Repair cafes are an international phenomenon that started in the Netherlands in 2009 and was first created in New Zealand in 2016. The current edition has accelerated since the pandemic, supported by Donut Economics Advocates New Zealand .

Charging nothing but with an encouraged koha, volunteer repairers do their best to fix all kinds, saving people money and a trip to the dump.

Repair Cafés have now popped up in six locations in the Auckland region.

Une-Deux Cafe on Karangahape Road hosts a Repair Cafe on the second Saturday of every month from 11am to 2pm.

Eric has been volunteering at Repair Cafés for about 10 months and has an electrical practice license.

Eric has been volunteering at Repair Cafés for about 10 months and has an electrical practice license.
Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

Eric has been volunteering at Repair Cafés for about 10 months and has an electrical practice license.

Electronic Assistant Eric is a regular volunteer.

“I’ve been in Repair Cafés for about nine or ten months now,” he said.

“I got screwed over by my wife. She said ‘I think you’d like it’ so we went to see.”

He loved it from the start.

“It was the shortest three hours of my life. Not for her, she was waiting in the car.

“I have an electrical license so we fix anything that comes through the door or at least try to do that with toasters, irons, heaters, all the things I did when I was an apprentice in the 1960s.

On a hot Saturday afternoon, a few items had passed through Eric’s office.

“There was a coffee grinder, and I don’t like coffee, but I got it to work. It just wouldn’t work. The coffee grinds get into the little bearings and the motors and make them strong and that’s all.

“There was a guy who had a touch desk lamp that I couldn’t fix. Two things are against us here. One of them is time, and the other is coins, that’s why I don’t often repair toasters, because you’d have 1000 different elements for different, all different toasters that are out there.”

Across the room, another volunteer, Pete, was hard at work gluing together a unique-looking model sailboat.

“A guy bought in his grandfather’s model ship which, if you look closely, is made of matchsticks.

“I said ‘oh, that must have taken a long time’ and it turned out that his grandfather was inside – like in prison – and had had plenty of time to build this elaborate model from matches.”

Pete, a volunteer at the Repair Café, repairs a model sailboat made of matchsticks.

Pete is fixing a model sailboat made out of matchsticks.
Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

Pete is fixing a model sailboat made out of matchsticks.

On another table sat two sewing machines and a pile of needles and thread.

Volunteer Kurt said fixing things that were special to people was worth it.

“It might have zero or very little monetary value, but the emotional attachment if you can just fix that patch in someone’s pants or fix their bag that their mom gave them. That kind of thing is extremely gratifying.”

People having their items inspected at a Repair Cafe on Karangahape Road in Auckland.

People receiving their items were looking at the Karangahape Road Repair Cafe.
Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

People receiving their items were looking at the Karangahape Road Repair Cafe.

At the same table, Janice helps sew, hem and mend items.

For her, Repair Cafe is a space of positivity.

“I think there’s enough unhappiness and sadness in the world right now, but if you want to feel a little better about the world, come to the Repair Cafe. See good things happen and great stories, like this backpack I’m fixing. It’s had adventures around the world and will continue, rather than going to the dump.”

The owner of this backpack heard about Repair Cafe through a Facebook sustainability group.

“There have been a few in other parts of Auckland but this is the closest to my house so I jumped at the chance,” the traveler said.

“This is my hiking backpack that has been around the world with me. The shoulder straps were a little worn out so I’m really excited to be able to get more out of it.

“I also have a few clothes that I tried to fix myself, but they keep breaking in the same place. Obviously I’m not doing enough of a good job, so I’m glad someone who is actually a professional can help me with that.”

Repair Café volunteer Janice says anyone who wants to feel a little better about the world should come to the Repair Café.

Janice says anyone who wants to feel a little better about the world should come to the Repair Cafe.
Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

It’s a sentiment shared by rookie Juan, who had zippers repaired on a jacket and a backpack, as well as a glued-on shoe. He had been holding the damaged items for two years.

“I’m visiting my family at the end of the year at Columbia and I was going to bring all these things with me to fix them. So I was going to ask my mom, but they were easy to fix and I think it’s is what’s great about places like this, you can bring your stuff in and give it a second life.”

So the next time you’re thinking of throwing away that faulty Bluetooth speaker or that microwave that’s not shutting off properly, Repair Cafe would like you to visit your local first.

You can find them on Karangahape Road, Te Atatū, New Lynn, Piha, Manurewa and soon in Orewa.

As Pete explained, almost anything goes, but there were a few exceptions to the rule.

“We’ve seen it all, but I have to be honest, we can’t do water jets. We’re upstairs in a lovely cafe here in Auckland, but we don’t have the facilities to hook up a water jet. water and try the water jet to see if it works. Yeah, it’s usually the smaller stuff.