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Showing their support ... Looking at plans for the proposed Waitaki Event Centre are (clockwise from right) Doug and Donna Hurst; LJ Hooker Oamaru principal Stephen Robertson; and Veterinary Centre Oamaru directors (from left) Mat O'Sullivan, Kevin Kearney and chief executive Jeff Spillane. PHOTOS: REBECCA RYAN

Doug and Donna Hurst are encouraging everyone in the Waitaki district to help create a “wonderful legacy for the community”.

The North Otago couple said Covid-19 was the catalyst for them to pledge $5 million to the Waitaki Event Centre project.

During last year’s lockdown, Mr Hurst said he felt “bombarded” by news predicting the collapse of businesses and mass unemployment.

So the North Otago businessman started thinking about how this “negative” could be turned into “a real positive”.

While he could not solve the world’s problems, or New Zealand’s, he thought he could do something for North Otago.

Mr and Mrs Hurst knew Oamaru could really benefit from a new multipurpose sport and event facility.

“A project of this magnitude would be an excellent way of securing employment, supporting local business and, equally importantly, [would] provide all our residents with a sense of actually doing something positive, in these times of negativity, for our district,” Mr Hurst said.

They have pledged up to $5 million towards the proposed $24 million sport and event centre in Oamaru.

“For every dollar given by families or businesses, Donna and I will match it, dollar for dollar, up to $5 million,” he said.

“North Otago has been an absolutely wonderful district to raise our family in and to run our businesses from. Hence, if this seed money we are contributing provides the catalyst to actually get this much-wished-for dream kick-started and soon to be a reality, then Donna and I will be extremely satisfied.”

A new charitable trust – the Waitaki Event Centre Trust – has been formed to drive the fundraising campaign for the six-court stadium.

The Waitaki District Council has committed up to $10million towards the project, and this week the Veterinary Centre Oamaru and LJ Hooker Oamaru announced their “significant” financial support.

Waitaki Event Centre Trust spokesman Kevin Malcolm would not disclose how much the Veterinary Centre and LJ Hooker had contributed, but said it gave the trust a “huge kick start” to match the Hursts’ $5million.

Mr Malcolm said the Hursts’ pledge changed the project “from a dream to a reality”.

“It’s showing the commitment of Doug and Donna to the Waitaki district and the value they place on everyone having the best opportunities.”

Mr Malcolm was optimistic their $5million pledge could be matched – ”plus more” – by November, which would keep the project on track for a 2024 opening.

Next month, a Givealittle page would be launched and a flyer delivered to households across the district outlining how businesses and families could contribute.

The trust had been talking to other potential local funders, and the response had been “really, really good”, he said.

“We need to generate this from within. We can’t rely on outside sources – we need to make it happen for everybody and we will.”

Mr Hurst said it was time for everyone in the Waitaki district to “come to the party” and be part of creating a “wonderful legacy for the community”.

“Quite frankly, in my eyes, a group of 10-year-olds from a local primary school who decide to have a sausage sizzle which raises $50 for the project is equally important as an individual or business giving thousands of dollars.

“I want every contributor to be able to proudly say in 10 or 20 years’ time, that ‘I helped raise the money to build this wonderful events centre’.”

At present, the council is consulting with the community ver the proposed location of the centre at Centennial Park, between the grandstand and Taward St. Due to the proposed change of land use, the council is required to publicly notify it under the Reserves Act 1977.

Consultation closes on October 1.