$1.2 million for humanitarian hub

An artist's impression of the completed community hub. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
An artist's impression of the completed community hub. IMAGE: SUPPLIED
The community group which has transformed a run-down Invercargill suburb has announced its most ambitious project to date - a $1.2million community hub which will also be a base for the Koha Kai charitable organisation.

South Alive will take over the Binn Inn building next to South City Mall in December to redevelop and it extend it over the next year.

The building will contain a retail food shop, a coffee counter, two meeting rooms, the South Alive offices, and a demonstration kitchen for community cooking classes.

There will also be a large glass-fronted commercial kitchen for Koha Kai, the charitable trust started by Invercargill woman Janice Lee in 2014. It offers horticultural and hospitality training opportunities to disabled people and provides 700 meals weekly for pupils of three low-decile South Invercargill primary schools.

Ms Lee and South Alive chairwoman Robyn Hickman yesterday said the development would enable both organisations to operate commercially, with a view to becoming self-sustaining and less reliant on hand-outs for funding.

Among many initiatives over the past four and a-half years, South Alive has organised regular street cleanups, planted fruit and nut trees, instigated the installation of a significant public sculpture, lobbied for a spruce up of the South City shopping centre and mall, opened an art gallery, and supported children's programmes.

While there was ``rising pride'' in South Invercargill, that was not enough and not sustainable, Mrs Hickman said.

The community hub was a ``really big idea which would become the strong beating heart of humanitarian rejuvenation as well as physical rejuvenation,'' she said.

Mrs Lee said the kitchen would take trainees to the next level where the focus would be on producing quality, affordable, nutritious meals for sale to the public.

Community funders, the Invercargill City Council (ICC) and many individuals had rallied to make the vision a reality, Mrs Hickman said.

That included $225,000 from the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the ILT Foundation and a $50,000 grant and a $350,000 interest-free loan from the Community Trust of Southland, $200,000 of which would be repaid by the ICC.

allison.beckham@ odt.co.nz

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