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A 2015 blaze destroyed Omihi’s 91-year-old hall, which was home to the historic Glenmark Rugby Club. Today, a new $1 million building is rising in the local domain. Robyn Bristow reports.

A final push is being made to add the finishing touches to the new Omihi Community and Sports Hall.

The hall, at North Canterbury’s Omihi Domain, is at the lock-up stage and Keane Building is fitting out the interior for the building to open in early spring, allowing it once again to become the hub of the community.

It is nearly three years since the hall, built in 1924, was gutted by a blaze that ripped through the building in August 2015.

It left the community without a hall and the Glenmark Rugby Club without a clubrooms.

The project has cost about $1 million and the ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign, kicked off by the rugby club immediately after the fire, is now the focus of the latest bid for funds.

Rebuild committee chairman Alec Baxter, secretary and tennis club representative on the committee Nick Hamilton, along with Stu Loe from the rugby club, say offers of support to date have been fantastic. However, the cost of the project is significant and the committee still needs help meeting the costs.

Mr Baxter says people can donate whatever sum they like to the ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign, with those donating more than $250 recognised on a plaque as having contributed to the building.

Flooring, which remained intact in the old hall, may be used to display names of contributors.

“It’s our last push. It will finish it off, go toward landscaping and allows for things we would like to put in the hall.

“It is just an extra kick to get it done,” Mr Baxter says.

Support has flowed in from the district, Canterbury and beyond to help with the rebuild.

Dinners, trail-bike rides, golf competitions and donations of time, materials from suppliers and contractors’ skills, have all helped boost the rebuild, along with insurance from the old building and funds raised from outside agencies such as the Rata Foundation and the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board.

The hall will be used for community events and by local organisations and clubs.

It will be available to hire out for functions and will be used by local sports clubs and organisations.

The committee is hopeful a roll-away stage will add to the use by the neighbouring Omihi School, allowing it to enhance productions and concerts.

Mr Baxter says the hall will also be a Civil Defence post for the North Canterbury area because of the standard to which it has been built.

“It is a very safe, well constructed building with a foot print of 500 square metres,” he says.

“The old one was 389 square metres, long and narrow. This is a better use of space.”

Stu Loe says the lack of a rugby home had affected club numbers over the past two years, but rural clubs always experienced ebbs and flows due to where kids went for schooling, as well as employment opportunities.

The fire not only claimed a vital community asset, but also rugby memorabilia and photographs.

The committee is keen to hear from anyone who may have photos or other memorabilia of importance to the district, tucked away in a cupboard and who would be willing to have it put up in the club.

To donate to the Buy a Brick campaign, phone Craig Tomlinson on (027) 4339330 or email tinyfi@xtra,co.nz, Nick Hamilton (027) 5466434, or Alec Baxter (027) 2012326.