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Omarama Community Centre a huge success

DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2013
omarama community hall

IMPRESSIVE FACILITY: The Omarama Community Centre, which opened in October.

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Omarama's newly-opened community centre is getting plenty of use, despite only being open for just over a month.

The venue recently hosted an Omarama School fundraiser, which raised more than $12,500.

The event, named the Big 5, organised by the Friends of Omarama School, involved more than 100 people and featured competitive events throughout the day, as well as a quiz night, auction and full dinner.

Omarama Residents' Association treasurer, Glenys Dawson, said the fundraiser was the true assessment of how the new facility stacks up.

"That was our first real test. They had to cater for 100 guests and it was a great way to test it out. We were right on track, which is great ... everyone noticed the improvement with the new building."

Since the Omarama School event a 21st celebration has been held at the community centre and the local Plunket organisation has held regular weekly meetings there.

Mrs Dawson said there are also several bookings for early next year, while businesses have also expressed a desire in utilising the facility.

"If a hairdresser wanted to use it for example we have got a couple of hand-basins as well as broadband internet. We've had a physio want to set up there and we've had a few others show an interest in setting up there, but people are welcome to come and have a look."

She said the Omarama public are enthusiastic about the community centre, with many residents giving it glowing reviews.

"The feedback about the new Community Centre has been absolutely tremendous. Everyone has been blown away, particularly by the new kitchen and the extension out the back for the playgroup and Plunket area which I think stunned people the most."

Tree planting and landscaping has taken place at the centre, including the planting of a cherry tree donated by the playgroup and an eight-foot oak tree that was grown from a self-sown Omarama seedling by Mrs Dawson.

Omarama Residents Association committee member Michael Blackstock has also donated several tussock and native plants which have now been planted behind the new named wall.

A part of the former community centre has been preserved through recycling the Oamaru stone from the old centre's back wall.

Mrs Dawson said the plantings are the first stage in the ongoing development of the centre.

"We are a fully registered charity and all money earned by the centre goes towards its upkeep and into further improvements.

"In addition to finishing the landscaping our next project is going to be putting in multi-purpose outside courts that can be used for tennis, netball and handball and provide room for basketball practice."

She describes the effort that the community put in to raise money to construct the centre as nothing short of amazing.

"For the size of the population we had one of the biggest fundraising efforts in the country to raise $750,000."

Of the several hundred thousand dollars for the centre, funding came from the likes of the Meridian Waitaki Community Fund ($85,000), the Otago Community Trust ($95,000), the Alexander McMillan Trust ($30,000) and the Lottery Grants Board ($290,000).

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The figure granted from the Meridian fund was the largest ever granted by the organisation.

"It's amazing to think back to the enormous effort that went into the project from so many people, including my husband and local community board chairman Craig Dawson, who worked hard to get the seed capital of $165,000 from the sale of our former local medical centre building in 2009," Mrs Dawson said.

"If we hadn't used those funds for our new centre the money would have been lost back to the Waitaki District Council for general purposes so it was really important to us that we proceeded with the project.

"This extraordinarily ambitious community project has delivered and the team responsible have good reason to feel very satisfied with their remarkable achievement.

"Omarama is already a great place to live, but it has been made even better by the wonderful addition of these upgraded facilities."

The Omarama Community Centre opened on October 25.

WAITAKI HERALD

- South Canterbury

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