Centre seven years in the making

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About seven years ago, the Omarama Residents Association had a vision – a vision of a refurbished Community Centre, which would become an asset to the community.

On Friday afternoon, the Omarama Community Centre was officially opened by Waitaki District deputy mayor Hugh Perkins.

It wasn’t an easy road, having to find $750,000 of funding for the project, but the refurbished Centre, the only publicly owned building in town, came in on price, and they’ve even added a few extras.

“It was a long, long process. There was a lot of rejection, but a lot of success really, with a lot of people really helping us, because it was a hell of a lot of work – but we got there in the end,” Omarama Resident’s Association chairman Craig Dawson said.

There were a lot of challenges, but the Resident’s Association, the Ahuriri Community Board and the Waitaki District Council had all been supportive of the project.

To see the community gather for the official opening on Friday had been “quite emotional” for Mr Dawson.

“To see the people benefit from it is really brilliant,” he said.

Seven years ago, they recognised that the plumbing and electrical work, among other things, were starting to get tired.

“So we thought, do we let it get dilapidated, or do we push on and get something done,” Mr Dawson said.

“The whole idea is, as the only publicly owned building in Omarama, we needed something to be able to cope with civil emergencies.”

Meridian Energy Community Fund chairman Matt Bayliss said initially, the project seemed extremely aspirational, with project costs appearing well beyond the means of such a small community.

Nevertheless, the Waitaki Community Fund contributed $85,000 to the project, and Mr Bayliss said it was “inspirational” to see it come to fruition.

“[In 2011] we reviewed an excellent application by the Omarama Resident’s Association and made a decision to grant the largest individual contribution the Waitaki Fund has ever made,” Mr Bayliss said.

“We had unanimous support for this funding application and a strong desire to grant the largest sum we could possibly grant.”

Omarama was already a great place to live, he said, but had been made even better by the addition of the upgraded facilities.

Mr Perkins, who cut the ribbon to officially open the Centre on Friday, said it was an “extraordinary” effort for the community to have raised $750,000 for the project and a “tremendous example of the strength of the Omarama community”.

“The District Council did what it could to be helpful, but essentially it fell back on local residents,” he said.

“Congratulations to Craig and the committee, you’ve done a fantastic job – this is a magnificent building and I’m sure it will serve the community in a huge variety of ways for many years to come.”

The refurbished Omarama Community Centre is expected to have a variety of uses, Mr Dawson said, including; as a community sports centre, Resident’s Association central point of business, civil defence centre, medical centre, trauma centre, social services, a commercial kitchen to enable people to cook and sell goods, Plunket facilities, Playgroup facilities, dance group centre, school events, gymnasium, Ahuriri Community Board and Council meeting place, arts, culture and whanau gathering places, sports and recreation, a memorial hall, electoral centre, call-in centre for the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and it could also be a facility for new business incubation, as a place to start up and move on once becoming more established.