A long-awaited and much-needed new St John Ambulance complex has been officially opened in Tauranga.
The $4.8m facility on 17th Ave will serve the rapidly growing communities of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Pāpāmoa and will be a control hub for ambulance operations in the region, as well as St John's other community services and programmes.
Yesterday's opening ceremony was attended by city and regional leaders, community figures and donors, and St John volunteers and staff from all levels of the organisation, including Chancellor Dr Steven Evans.
Jane Swainson, chair of St John's Tauranga/Mount Maunganui area committee, said the new facility was made possible by a community-wide fundraising effort.
"It's very exciting for us to have a new home from which we can provide the community with our services."
She said the project overcame a few challenges and pauses along the way but thanks to "lots of fabulous donors", it made it through to the end.
The project had been trying to get off the ground for about 10 years and the businesses of 247 Cameron Rd (ANZ Business Centre) stepped in and finally made it happen.
"They enabled the fundraising of a lot of the funds. They got together, they did pure graft and so we're so thankful to them," Swainson said.
The St John Tauranga Building Project Charitable Trust was formed by the businesses in 2014 to raise the money required. It also helped facilitate building plans and consents.
The new facility would not have got across the line if it was not for the Tauranga Electricity Consumer Trust (TECT), which contributed $2.23m.
TECT chairman Bill Holland said yesterday: "You've just got to look at the place; it is a fantastic facility for Tauranga and I know the TECT consumers were 100 per cent behind us supporting this."
Holland said the opening of the facility was a milestone everyone involved in the project had long been waiting for.
"I was talking to one of the people who work here and I asked him what it was like, and he said 'It's just a dream'. Good working conditions provide for better service and that's what the people need."
Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said it was good to see so many St John volunteers, staff and people who had put their hands in their pocket to fund the new facility, at the opening.
"Because a lot of people don't realise the Government only provides some of the funding for the ambulance service. The community, and fortunately Tauranga is a generous community, has to fund the rest."
A donor recognition board in the foyer of the new depot will help celebrate those contributions.
The NZ Community Trust gave $325,000 towards the new depot, Tauranga Police's CIB Charitable Trust Auction raised another $100,000 and several local organisations and many generous individuals funded the balance.
The project hit an unexpected and weather-related hurdle last year which delayed the building programme.
St John is still fundraising to cover the final $150,000 incurred as a result of the delay.
At the opening: What do you think about the new facility?
"It's fabulous. I think it's going to go onwards and upwards from this point forward."
Peter Martin, 55, Tauriko
"I think it's very nice. It's got a big space and more spaces to actually learn and do things."
Tayla Holton, 8, Greerton
"I joined the St John Ambulance in 1946 and I was a relief ambulance driver. This is the third building that I've been to the official opening of. Beautiful … it's just out of this world, really."
Gordon Woodcock, 84, Otumoetai
"It's amazing. It's such a good facility. It's made our lives a whole lot easier … so it means a whole lot for the community as well, having us all based in the same area. It's just awesome. It makes a world of difference."
Kerryn Swift, 35, Katikati