By ROBYN BRISTOW
Plans for a new community and sports hall in Omihi are now in the hands of the Hurunui District Council.
The milestone has been reached in under two years from when the old hall, built in 1924, was gutted by a blaze that ripped through the building in August 2015.
The fire not only claimed a vital community asset, but also the home of the Glenmark Rugby Club, rugby memorabilia and photographs.
It is expected the total cost of the project, which received a boost of $200,000 from the Rata Foundation, could come in at around the $1 million mark when landscaping and carparking are added in.
On Thursday last week Alec Baxter, Alex Wyllie, Nick Hamilton and Leighton Croft, representing the Omihi Community and Sports Hall Inc, joined Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley and Kerry Walsh, team leader, building, to formerly hand over the plans.
The Incorporated society, which “encompasses” the whole community and its sports clubs, takes over guardianship of the hall from Trustees who spent many years caring for the old hall which served the community for over 90 years.
The new building is a “community building first and foremost” and has a main hall, bar, kitchen, meeting room, toilets and storage.
While it will provide a home for the Glenmark Rugby Club, it will also play a vital role in the life of the nearby Omihi School for its productions, which this year has had to be staged in Waipara.
Weddings and other social occasions are expected to take place in the facility and it will also double as a Civil Defence headquarters during any adverse events.
Alec Baxter said the whole community had swung in behind the project.
“There was a lot of support, especially around fundraising, which the rugby club drove,” he said.
The support came despite the drought taking its toll in the district and with Cheviot Rugby Club and the Greta Valley Tavern working with the Glenmark Club to ensure there was a meeting place and clubrooms for fixtures.
“It has been quite disruptive for the rugby club so it will be great to come back home,” Leighton Croft says.
Alex Wyllie says a feature of the building is verandas running along the front and side of the building providing a great “family friendly” place to meet, sit and watch the action on the fields and enjoy the view to the mountains.
Once the building is under way landscaping and car parking plans will be unveiled with several local contractors already indicating they will provide voluntary labour.
Mayor Winton Dalley says the council has been involved in the project from the day the old hall was demolished through to supporting the application to the Rata Foundation and drawing up and signing a lease for the incorporated society as the building is on reserve land.