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Clutha Foundation chairman Bill Thomson gave the description during his opening speech to about 120 people at the Cross Recreation Centre in Balclutha, at an official lunchtime opening ceremony.
Also present was foundation patron, long-serving Clutha-Southland MP and former prime minister Sir William English, who spoke of parochialism as a power for good in New Zealand’s communities.
He said the Clutha district should be proud of what it had already achieved in providing community facilities — a situation that spoke to the "strength of this [South Otago] community".
"Although parochialism can sometimes be a challenge to be overcome, for projects of this sort, it’s a strength. Our collective power is in belonging to a community."
Community Foundations of NZ chairwoman Stacey Scott said the foundations were the fastest growing form of philanthropy in the world, and welcomed Clutha’s foundation as the 17th in New Zealand since the first was established in Tauranga in 2003.
Clutha’s launch meant 80% of New Zealanders now had access to a community foundation, backed collectively by $110 million of managed funds.
"Community foundations can make a significant improvement to life in a region, and be a powerful force for good. Clutha’s launch should be celebrated by local people."
Mr Thomson said the next step was to establish a viable fund, with a "lean, mean administration" to attract donations and bequests.