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A need for change . . . A new steering group has been formed to lead a project to establish a new ''community hub'' in Oamaru. The former North Otago Returned and Services Association building is one of several sites being considered. PHOTOS: REBECCA RYAN/SUPPLIED

The former North Otago Returned and Services Association (RSA) building in Itchen St could be developed into a new Oamaru “community hub”.

It is one of several sites being considered by a new steering group set up to lead a project to establish a multipurpose community hub in Oamaru.

At present, Community House in lower Thames St was used by about 18 groups and organisations, but it was no longer “fit for purpose”, chairman Dick Cottier said.

The 1882 category 2 heritage building is owned by the Waitaki District Council, which rents it to the Community House trust.

There was a “pressing need” for a new premises to house community services in Oamaru, Mr Cottier said.

“We’ve been looking at it for two years now .. but we’re really just starting to wind it up now because Community House is getting past its use-by date,” he said.

“We don’t want to spend any more money in there. That money would be better spent on something that’s going to be suitable for the wider community.”

The steering group, led by Mr Cottier, is applying for funding for a feasibility study to determine requirements and consider the best approach to establish a new facility that would meet the needs of the community.

While the study would look at several options for a site, “the one that’s really hard to go past is the RSA”, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said.

Mr Kircher and deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale have been in discussions with the steering group, but the possibility of using the RSA building as the new site had not yet been discussed with councillors.

“Our current Community House does a wonderful job, but it has been obvious for the past three years or more that it has problems with its lack of space, its need for a complete refurbishment and the lack of facilities such as confidential interview rooms,” Mr Kircher said.

“We have a great group of community people who are stepping up to say that Waitaki needs a better facility, and council is keen to work with the group to find the right solution.”

There were “some great ideas coming forward” and some potential funders had expressed an interest in the community-led project, Mr Cottier said.

The steering group is made up of Mr Cottier, Maria Buldain (Able Family Support), Christine Dorsey (Newcomers and Multicultural Society), Philip van Zijl (Oamaru Public Library), Leisa de Klerk (Volunteer South), Helen Algar (Safer Waitaki), Peter Bond (Citizens Advice Bureau), Geoff Brown (construction industry) and Cara Tipping Smith (The Business Hive).