“Not just a pub, but a community hub”

5 Nov 2018

Hospitality NZ member Tolaga Bay Inn and its publican Lily Stender are an inspiring example of how hospitality businesses can positively impact their local communities. The Tolaga Bay Inn’s impact is working towards developing the local community, and preserving its heritage.


Located on the East Coast, Tolaga Bay Inn was originally built in 1886 by “Blind Charlie” for Captain Glover. The building was subsequently destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1930. It was designed by French-Canadian architect Sholto Smith and was built in the Tudor House style that he later became famous for. The inn is an important part of Tolaga Bay’s history and heritage architecture.


Lily Stender, who runs the inn and is originally from the area, was acutely aware of the property’s local significance. She was keen to preserve the property for the community as well as future generations and instigated an extensive restoration and preservation project. 


Beyond the inn’s restoration, Lily also saw potential to use the property not just for accommodation and F&B services. She also wanted to use it as a community hub to help push economic, social and cultural development in the area.


The plan involves an onsite information centre, business support services and computer training facilities. The intention is to foster tourism and technology development, which will in turn create jobs and business opportunities for locals in the area. It is a sustainable development plan that will allow this East Coast community to regenerate itself from within.


Fundraising for this project has been sourced through the first ever Maori Crowdfunding Platform- Ta Koha. Through the platform, Tolaga Bay Inn has raised more than its $50,000 target.


With these funds, Tolaga Bay Inn will develop local tourism experiences. In particular, it will work on creating adventure tourism experiences curated by locals such as eeling tours, crayfish tours, historical guided tours and cultural experiences. The centre will also showcase arts and crafts produced by local residents.


Lily’s vision for the community includes providing training opportunities, and the inn has collaborated with organisations such as EIT (Eastern Institute of Technology, Super Grans, Digital Wings, Stepping Up and 20/20 Trust in order to do so.


Examples of recent projects at the inn’s community hub include a computer skills training session which helps locals to upskill and is being run free of charge to participants in the course.



It is an inspiring example of what a lynch-pin of the local community hospitality businesses can be. Lily’s hard work at Tolaga Bay Inn also shows how much positive influence the hospitality sector can have on preserving and developing our local communities for a better future.


Share your Hospitality New Zealand member stories with us on social media using #HNZmemberstories.



Image courtesy of The Gisborne Herald.

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