Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Shortland Street star Laurel Devenie helps save community arts hub

Devenie as Kate Nathan in Shortland Street.
Devenie as Kate Nathan in Shortland Street.

Shortland Street star Laurel Devenie has stepped in to help save a popular community arts hub from being axed after it was hit with a large rates and utilities bill.

The actress - who plays nurse Kate Nathan in the Kiwi soap - helped fundraise almost $6000 in the space of 24 hours via crowdfunding platform PledgeMe to keep the OneSixOne creative centre in Whangarei, Northland, open.

Away from her TV day job, Devenie is a member of quirky theatre collective Company of Giants that took over the lease of the old church venue in Bank St last year.

But when a bill for $5990.97 recently arrived it was feared the centre would have to shut, disappointing thousands of regular users.

"We knew we were due a rates and utility bill but we were shocked at the amount and we had no money left to pay it," Devenie told the Herald on Sunday.

"It is important we keep the centre in the hands of the community so we had to move quickly to save it."

Devenie was stunned when $6000 was pledged within the space of a day.

"We have had pledges and donations from all over New Zealand, plus a few from Australia and other places overseas," she said.

"We were amazed when our target was reached so quickly, it was an incredible engagement in community involvement.

"We have just found out the local council is now rolling the lease over for another year."

Any money made from renting the space was put towards fixing it up and making it more usable and accessible as a quality venue.

"When we took the place over it had been sitting empty for a few years and was full of all kinds of rubbish," Devenie said.

"We painted it, fixed up the kitchen, replaced broken windows, bought tap fittings, put up theatre curtains, planted fruit trees and did a bunch of other things needed to run a community centre.

"The project has been run entirely by volunteers and we have had about 5000 people through the doors this year so the news we are staying open is fantastic."

- Herald on Sunday

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