Emotional and exciting . . . Project manager Jo Sutherland was overwhelmed by the unveiling ceremony of the White Horse monument last Thursday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Waimate’s White Horse redevelopment has been one big community project.

Last Thursday, hundreds of Waimate residents, leaders, Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) staff and 600 school children turned out to celebrate its completion.

The $600,000 Waimate2gether project had taken 18 months of hard work, and involved constructing viewing platforms, new toilets, car parking area, landscaping, new signs and information panels on the history of the South Canterbury town. The White Horse itself has also been restored, with glow-in-the-dark paint, and children from the area’s three kindergartens, six primary schools and Waimate High School created their own decorative pou (columns) for the area.

A formal blessing was performed at last week’s ceremony, before representatives from the schools and kindergartens spoke about the significance of their pou designs.

Waimate singer and former Gold Guitar winner Louise Stringer composed a song, to the tune of Take Me Home, Country Roads, about the monument and Waimate township, to mark the occasion. All the school children sang along in unison at the ceremony.

Project manager Jo Sutherland said the song was incredible, and the performance capped off an emotional and exciting day for the community.

‘‘With something like [this], working with all the community, the kids are a big part of it, with their families, and when they come out and sing a song like that and stand up in front of their pou with such pride — that’s what it’s all about, that’s why we put it all together.’’

The project was special as it had been driven by the community, with assistance from the DIA, Waimate District Council, and other community groups.

‘‘It’s like bringing a jigsaw puzzle together. There’s lots of pieces . . .and it all comes together — it’s actually quite a beautiful feeling.’’

From local contractors to Rotary and Lions clubs, everyone had chipped in to help bring the project to life.

‘‘It’s been wonderful getting to know my community,’’ she said.

‘‘Everybody has got such a talent and a creativity, and everyone’s got something to give — it’s been really lovely to see.’’

DIA community advisory services manager Garry Lay said funding the project was the easy part, but the real achievement was what the community was able to produce. The project was a testament to community-led developments, he said.

Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said community projects like the White Horse redevelopment made him incredibly proud to lead the district.

‘‘I think it just proves when the money’s put in the right place and the right hands of the right people it’s incredible what can be achieved,’’ Mr Rowley said.

Waimate2gether is now focusing on its next projects. Mrs Sutherland said the group was working towards creating a three-day walking and biking trail through the district, and an 18-hole disc golf course at Knottingley Park.

‘‘We’ve found some great creativity in our district, so we want to keep that going, keep that alive,’’ Mrs Sutherland said.