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Paddling around . . . Lake Aviemore at Otematata is a popular spot in summer. PHOTO: HAMISH MACLEAN

Otematata’s future is in the hands of a big group of people embracing its inclusion in the Community Led Development Programme.

The town is one of 19 in the Department of Internal Affairs initiative. Its acceptance into the programme was formally marked last Saturday at a free barbecue and family fun day in the Community Sports Grounds, attended by about 90 people.

Otematata Residents Association chairman Steve Dalley and department representatives signed a memorandum of understanding. For the next five years, the department will provide guidance and support – both human and financial – as Otematata plans its evolution.

The association has been named the governance group and a working group has been formed to draw in the wider community and stakeholders.

The group is co-ordinated by Richard Paton, who splits his time between Otematata and Christchurch.

He told the Oamaru Mail the launch on Saturday was “really superb” and “very well supported by the community” despite iffy weather.

“It was very buoyant and upbeat.”

The working group would meet again within a fortnight and take advice from the Department of Internal Affairs on planning ahead.

“We’re doing the groundwork first. We’re all learning as we go.”

The programme follows five main principles: growing from shared local visions; building from strengths; working with diverse people and sectors; growing collaborative leadership; and learning by doing.

“It’s an opportunity in quite a structured way to build the capacity of the community on one hand, and to be able to determine what people want and provide that while retaining its richness.”

The group would work with stakeholders to provide enhancement for the present and future while honouring the past, Mr Paton said.

It was keen to communicate with as many people as possible who were involved in Otematata, including those spend summers there.

“It’s acknowledging their importance.”

As well as contributing to the local economy, they were “bringing their own soul into the area”, he said.

“We hope they will be able to contribute in one way, and benefit too.”

The programme was “about building sustainability within the community as well”, including “people who otherwise might not be involved”, and “giving people who want it the opportunity to pick up leadership and responsibility roles”.

He was also “delighted” with the support given by tangata whenua.

“It’s all about respectful relationships at all levels.”