“An absolutely stunning building” is how the West Otago Community Centre Chairman Robert Kane describes the West Otago Community Centre.
The West Otago Community Centre is the “hub” of West Otago and was built in 1990 at a cost of $1.5million, which was primarily funded by the local community at the time. It is Tapanui’s Civil Defense Centre and is regularly used by the areas schools and serves as a backup venue to the West Otago Health Trust’s Medical and Aged Care Facility.
The Mataura Licensing Trust Community Theatre (which is part of the Community Centre) is also “Home” for the West Otago Theatrical Society.
This rural multi-use complex consists of a Main Hall (full size Basketball Court), 200 seat Theatre, Squash Courts, Community Social Room and an Entrance Foyer – an impressive complex for Tapanui.
Treasurer Hans van der Linden explained that the Committee is greatly indebted to the generosity received over the past 30 years by tradesman who have volunteered their time and expertise to maintain the complex. The volunteers have a range of skills and backgrounds from building, mechanic, farming, forest management, small business owner to a retired local body building consent officer.
Although the local community have pulled together and contributed to the maintenance over the years, unfortunately, the building has been subject to leaky roof issues and other wear and tear.
The leaky roof has become a major issue and it is critical to upgrade the complex so it is able to remain safe and accessible for the community for the next decade, explains Robert Kane.
Robert is a local bloke that is passionate about his community and its people and their wellbeing.
“The community would be at a loss without the centre - the cease of its operation is non-negotiable. It just brings people together. Most of the population in the wider West Otago community are farming families, and given how widespread our community is, it can be isolating at times”, says Robert.
“As a committee we are trying as many things as possible to cater for the community's interests, from local productions and dance school performances to indoor tennis competitions and squash, there is something for everyone. The theatre is the best fitted out theatre South of Christchurch and we have had professional tennis players in our complex saying that it is at an International Standard which is something to be proud of as a rural community”.
Stage 1 of the upgrades are now completed and involved strengthening and replacing the roof of the 200 seat theatre and installing compliant stage rigging and drape infrastructure. It cost approximately $450k and was funded from a mix of lottery, Council, Matarua Licensing Trust and community fundraising.
The upgrades are making a significant difference and will allow the Community Centre to continue to serve the community of West Otago for many more decades to come.
Community Trust South approved a grant of $75,000 in September 2022 for stage 2 of the project and along with support from other community funders the $371,000 project can commence early next year. The upgrade will afford them further structural upgrades, a new roof for the Main Hall and Squash Court, theatre stage upgrades and some new exterior paint.
Approximately 3,000 people benefit from the centre each year making the complex an integral part of the fabric of the West Otago and surrounding areas.