By Sue Emeny
The Dannevirke community is right behind the relocation of the town's iconic Fantasy Cave and is showing its support through generous donations.
Fantasy Cave board chairman Grant Hurrell said the purchase of the cave's new site, across from the back door of the original premises, was now unconditional and enough money had been donated by the Dannevirke community to take the project up to the stage of demolishing the building on the new site.
"The finance given by the community has enabled us to purchase the property, pay the engineers, architects and Fire and Emergency inspections of the plans."
Hurrell said there was also enough money to cover the cost of the demolition of the building, but said this would not happen until the board had the funding to build the new cave.
The resource management process had begun and the next stage was to obtain costings from a quantity surveyor.
"We are maintaining strict financial prudence," Hurrell said.
Board members were to meet with a Dannevirke-based fund manager, who would guide them through the process of applying for charitable funding.
"We will be putting the construction of the new cave out for tender and we will be using Dannevirke companies as much as possible."
Hurrell said the Fantasy Cave was a huge asset to the district.
"In the last 10 years there have been more than 80,000 visitors to the cave," Hurrell said.
"Through this more than $500,000 a year comes into the community through people spending money on food, fuel and other purchases. That averages out to $71 per visitor."
Hurrell said it needed to be recognised that the hard work of the cave volunteers over the past 32 years had brought between $15 million and $20m into the Dannevirke community.
Since the decision was made to relocate, the Fantasy Cave had to progress from being a voluntary organisation to taking on a business-like approach, Hurrell said.
"Because of the hundreds of thousands of dollars involved in the construction of the new cave it will become too much for the volunteers, so the formation of a board means there can be a more business-oriented approach."
With the purchase of the property being delayed through the Covid-19 lockdown, Hurrell said it was important for the board to maintain the Fantasy Cave's presence in the town.
It will achieve this by taking part in the town's annual Christmas parade on Saturday, December 5 and having a "Pop Up Christmas" which will include a Christmas walk to see Father Christmas at the Fountain Theatre in Ward St on the day of the parade.
Santa's cave will be open to visitors from December 10 to 13, 10am to 2pm; December 14 to 18, 10am to 4pm; December 19 and 20, 10am to 2pm; and December 21 to 24 from 10am to 4pm.
Father Christmas will have his official arrival at the cave on Thursday, December 10 at 10am - an event eagerly anticipated by children.
Over the years, many families have taken advantage of Santa's visit to have an annual family photo taken and they will be able to continue the tradition this year.
Admission to Santa's cave will be by koha and this money will go toward the cost of the rebuild.
Hurrell said generous sponsorship from the Black Stump, Visique Dannevirke and McIntyre Property Design, along with other donations, had made the pop-up cave possible.
For the past six months cave volunteers have been hard at work dismantling the displays and packing them away for storage.
Hurrell said the board appreciated the hard work of the volunteers.
A Dannevirke Fantasy Cave Givealittle page has been set up and donations can be made to its building account number 01 0611 0086165-01.