Project aims to connect community

Otautau Connect Church pastor Anita de Wolde at the entrance of the new community hub which opened at the end of last year.

THE former Otautau Town Hall has been transformed into a community hub thanks to the efforts of a church group.

The Otautau Connect Church invested about $1.5 million to develop a community centre in the township since acquiring the old town hall building in 2016.

The project included the establishment of a cafe, an auditorium for 200 people, a children’s area and several rooms which could be used for different community needs.

Pastor Anita de Wolde said the idea came when the church group identified they needed a bigger auditorium space at the same time the 1911 old town hall was put out to tender.

“And that is exactly what it was – we started to dream big in what we could do or what we could build to bring our community together.

“We didn’t want just a pretty new building – we wanted a place where people could connect and create.”

Instead of focusing only on what the community needed, they were forward thinking in ways they could enhance the lives of people from the Otautau community.

Mrs de Wolde said the project was delayed as the consents needed to carry out the work took more time than expected and the Covid-19 pandemic hit when they were planning to start the build.

“I think we were a little bit naive as we thought it would be quicker but it was also good because we built something that we feel very proud of.”

The group had a $20,000 grant from Community Trust South and the rest of the investment was achieved by donations and fundraisers, she said.

The hub has internet access and a counselling room for people needing help with their mental health.

The auditorium also has technology suited for a range of events including services, concerts and funerals.

A highlight of this space was a sound-proof room with a big window which could help families with babies continue to follow services or events while taking care of their babies, she said.

Mrs de Wolde believed church groups had more than just the spiritual role within the community, they should aim to bring people together.

“We would love to have people from all walks of life to come here and feel welcome.”

It was a place for the Otautau community to feel like a second home, she said.