Ground broken on LandSAR site

LandSAR Wanaka members (from left) Phil Melchior, chairman Paul Marshall and Roy Bailey turn the first sod at the site for the organisation's new  headquarters next to Wanaka's new police station, on Ballantyne Rd. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
LandSAR Wanaka members (from left) Phil Melchior, chairman Paul Marshall and Roy Bailey turn the first sod at the site for the organisation's new headquarters next to Wanaka's new police station, on Ballantyne Rd. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.

Land Search and Rescue Wanaka should be operating out of its new headquarters by July, after the first sod was turned at the Ballantyne Rd site yesterday.

About 50 people attended the ceremony, which included a Maori site blessing and speeches by LandSAR Wanaka members.

Chairman Paul Marshall said the organisation had been ''very lucky and blessed'' by the community's contribution to the project.

''The generosity in this community is just overwhelming for such a small place ... [and] pivotal to us putting a spade in the ground.''

He gave special thanks to the ''small, focused group'' of LandSAR members Roy Bailey, Geoff Hatten and Phil Melchior, who had worked tirelessly to make the project possible.

Fundraising co-ordinator Mr Melchior, in particular, was ''a visionary, a heart and soul'' of the project, Mr Marshall said.

The original budget for the building, next to Wanaka's new police station, was close to half a million dollars, including design work and consents. However, discounts provided by local businesses and tradespeople, along with keeping some of the construction work in-house, brought the overall cost to just under $400,000.

''It seems to me sometimes like every supplier, every tradesman in Wanaka has put their hand up and said `Yep, we can do that for you','' Mr Melchior said.

Everyone from anonymous benefactors to cafe staff donating their tip jar also played a part in paying for the building, which had cornerstone funding of $186,000 from the Central Lakes Trust.

On the slope behind the building site, trees have been planted as a memorial garden for those who have lost their lives in Wanaka's back country.

LandSAR Wanaka is one of New Zealand's busiest volunteer search and rescue organisations and previously used a double garage at the rear of the old police station in Helwick St, before shifting operations to a room at the new police station.

- lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz