Umbrellas and wet-weather gear were necessary attire at a blessing ceremony held recently to mark a major milestone in the redevelopment of the Waipawa and Districts Centennial Memorial Pool.

But it's hoped that swimwear will again be the mandatory dress code when the pool hosts its next major gathering come summer.

"Thank you so much for coming out in the rain. The next time we are here, everyone will be in their togs," CHB mayor Alex Walker assured the crowd on a cold and rainy day at Thursday's blessing, held to mark the start of the project to reopen the pool before Christmas.

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Used by more than 6000 people during a busy year, CHB's only outdoor pool did not open last summer after the discovery of cracks and other significant age-related defects in the concrete and plaster work of the pool, which opened in 1962.

A pool-side public meeting was held last November to inform residents of the bad news, but after strong feedback from the community, CHB District council committed $650,000 in its long-term plan towards the first stage of a $1.185 million redevelopment of the pool.

"We have spoken with the community, we have listened to the community and now less than one year later, we starting on rejuvenating this facility for CHB," said the mayor after Reverend John Flavell blessed the site in front of district councillors, members of the Community Project Reference Group, Waipawa School pupils and supporters.

Stage one will involve installation of a new 25m $100,000 pool imported from Italy, a children's play pool, and a new reticulation and treatment system so the pool can reopen in time for the 2018 summer season.

Stage two includes a new water play park and development of the surrounding Madge Hunter Park.

But $550,000 still needs to be raised by the community, spearheaded by the Project Reference Group with support from council, to complete stage one and prepare the project for stage two.

The NZ Community Trust has already granted $120,000 towards the redevelopment, and Project Reference Group chairman Bruce Stephenson was confident the community would come together to raise the remaining funds.

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"The Waipawa and Districts Pool has been a place of family fun for generations of families in Central Hawke's Bay. It is now time for the community to rally behind and financially support the project in whatever way they can, to ensure this important community facility is available for future generations," he said.

Waipawa School ambassadors Ella Malcolm and Tom Burne presented Stephenson and Mayor Walker with a cheque for $3000 to officially launch the community fundraising.

Bruce Stephenson also used the occasion to launch a public fundraising campaign. "Drops" can be purchased for $250, with options for businesses and organisations to purchase larger drops, while naming rights for the swimming lanes at the pool are for sale for $10,000.

There is also an upcoming fundraising quiz night for the pool at Skinny Mulligans in Waipawa on September 12.

People can donate or purchase a drop at the any district council service centre or library.
• For more information visit chbdc.govt.nz or contact funding co-ordinator Pip Burne on 0274 438 144.