By Sue Emeny
The building of a new hall at St John's Anglican Church in Dannevirke has taken another step forward.
This is a project that has been in the pipeline since 2016 when it was deemed the existing hall was no longer fit for purpose and a new facility was needed.
Vicar of Southern Hawke's Bay Parish Reverend Jo Crosse says the hall is more than 100 years old.
Apart from accommodating the parish office of the church, the hall houses a range of activities. It is the base for the Elske Centre, which provides activities and companionship for the elderly three days a week. It is also the base for home-based care provider Lavender Blue.
A mini-market is held in the hall every Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday mornings during term time a preschool music group meets and St John Ambulance cadets meet there.
So far a neighbouring house and section have been purchased and the buildings removed.
The vicarage behind the church hall has also been sold and a new driveway created.
In July last year, a survey was conducted to gauge what kind of facility the community saw a need for.
The Southern Hawke's Bay's Bay Property Reference Group, chaired by Rev Crosse, met in July to discuss a feasibility report prepared by Gemmelli Consulting during the initial Covid-19 lockdown.
The report outlined the initial findings of Gemelli Consulting following its initial engagement with both the parish and the community and suggested there were four broad possibilities for future development.
The first was to renovate the existing church hall.
The second option was to develop a new church hall on the site with additional space to meet current needs. This would be developed alongside the current church providing good street appeal with offices, meeting rooms and a large hall space that all could be rented out.
The third option was to develop a much larger multipurpose facility incorporating all aspects of option two but with additional facilities that could include medical facilities such as doctors' rooms and associated services, sports courts, rock-climbing walls or a theatre space.
The final option was for option two but with the addition of some affordable homes for the elderly on the rear of the site.
After receiving that report, a further meeting of the property reference group was held this month and was attended by Bishop Andrew Hedge, Waiapu Social Services Trust Board chair John Palairet, Waiapu Board of Diocesan Trustees chairman Michael Morgan and Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis.
Rev Crosse said there was a real sense of excitement at the possibilities for this group to work together to develop a facility that would provide space for the parish, social services and wider community.
"Our preference at this stage is to look more closely at options two and four."
She said Gemelli Consulting has been asked to begin the next stage of the process which will be to build a more detailed business case including factors such as costs, potential revenue streams, financing options, ownership and management options.
It will also continue consulting with the community groups who were not able to be consulted with in the first round of work, especially mana whenua and local schools.
"When we have the more detailed information we expect there will be an opportunity for us to make a public presentation and hear your feedback," Rev Crosse said.
"In the meantime rest assured that we are making good progress through the background work."
Members of the property reference group are: parish representatives Joy Raffaelli, Hamish Illsley and Craig Boyden; Social Services, Anglican Care Waiapu chief executive Lucy Laitinen and Tararua Family Services manager Peter Barton; diocesan leadership, Waiapu Diocese Registrar Colleen Kaye and Hawke's Bay regional dean David van Oeveren; tairawhiti amorangi Michael Tamihere, of Tumuaki of Te Rau College, Gisborne, and Joleen Perry, Te Aka Ora Charitable Trust chief executive, Gisborne.