The site of Stratford's new multimillion-dollar pool was blessed on Friday by Koro Sandy Parata and representatives from Ngāruahine, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Ruanui.
After the ground had been blessed, Stratford District mayor Neil Volzke took the spade to officially turn the first sod.
He said the day was one he, and many others, had been looking forward to for a long time.
"It's great that we've reached this milestone in the project and that the physical work is about to begin."
He thanked the team at the council who had worked hard to secure government funding for part of the project.
"They had to do a lot of work in a very short time frame to get that application approved."
The pool, which will cost a total of around $20 million, is a large project with an equally large amount of community support behind it, he said.
"It's the largest and most expensive council project that I have been involved with, and it's something that's had strong community support from the beginning when it was introduced in the 2018-28 Long Term Plan."
When it came to community support, Stratford Cricket Club deserved special mention, he added.
"They have given up their pitch here to make way for the new aquatic centre, as well as giving up their pitch on Victoria Park to make way for the cycle track there."
Play will continue for the cricket club, with two pitches on Stratford Primary grounds in the future, he said.
Stratford District Council CEO Sven Hanne says with the site now blessed, people can expect to see work on the site beginning within the next two weeks and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
He says council invited several businesses to put in tenders for the project, with Apollo Projects being the successful tender.
"Council staff were particularly pleased with their experience and track record when it came to work in the aquatic build sector."
The pool floor plan was signed off by the council in December 2020 and includes a 25m eight-lane pool, hydrotherapy pool, learn to swim pool and a children's splash pad.
Three mauri stones, representing Ngāruahine, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Ruanui, and a stone from the Patea river representing council, will be placed in the foundations of the building, says Sven.
Council is also working with the three iwi to ensure the final design of the aquatic centre incorporates cultural elements throughout.
Disclaimer: Ilona Hanne is married to the Stratford District Council CEO.