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Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club 1959.jpg
In the 1920s-30s a shed to store the reel and line was all that was needed

Meetings were held in various places – the Lyric Theatre (1920s), Cosy Theatre (1930s), the Capitol, the Ōtaki Maori Boys’ College.  From 1953 meetings were at the homes or offices of committee members or the Rifle Club Rooms;  from 1956 the Ōtaki Memorial Hall chair room or supper room were used.   Equipment was stored in the Marine Pavilion and auctions, dances and so on in various places including the Anglican Parish Hall and the Mayfair Cabaret.

However it became clear to the club that rooms of their own were urgently needed, and in August 1955 they began negotiations with the Ōtaki Borough Council to lease land to the north of the Marine Pavilion.  Building began on 3 November 1956  and from 1 April 1957 the use of the pavilion was discontinued.   A gear shed with a look-out tower and changing and club rooms, were in use by the end of 1957, the building having cost a total of £2700.  By the end of 1959, it was felt that a large hall with a kitchen should also be included and this became a much-used facility, with improvements and extensions being made over the years.   Much of the work was done by volunteers, including builder Dave Foster, later Club President.

On the night of Thursday 9-10 July 1987, the building was destroyed by fire.  This tragedy, believed to be arson, devastated the club, which was however heartened by the immediate and generous response from the community.  By mid morning on 10 July a fundraising appeal was begun, and in addition to money from individuals, clubs and other organisations in Ōtaki and Levin, practical help was offered by local tradespeople.


As the President noted in his annual report the following year, “the ashes were hardly cold and our local newspaper, the Chronicle, had an appeal for funds to rebuild our clubrooms.  The reaction from our community was unbelievable.  Never in 58 years in Ōtaki had I seen such a spontaneous expression of goodwill and practical demonstration of help to ensure the replacement of our clubrooms.”


On 1 August the burnt building was demolished and by the end of the month plans and specifications had been prepared.  In September club members, led by builder Merv Larsen, were excavating for the foundations for the new building. Essential equipment had already been bought, enabling the club to operate over the summer.  Around half of the rebuilding costs were covered by insurance and the rest by fundraising – a massive effort in a short time.   A total of $52,289 was received in donations.


The new building was operational in time for the Central Regional Championships, held for the first time in Ōtaki in February 1988 and attended by over 500 people.   This was a most successful event, and even the weather was perfect.  Indeed, the 1987-1988 season, in spite of the fire, was an excellent one, with patrols being maintained.  The Ōtaki Surf Life Saving Club building was officially opened on 20 November 1988.  In 2006 it was decided to extend the building– see this on the DVD in the ‘clubroom’ part of this exhibition.  This large addition was completed and opened in November 2008.


The Ōtaki Surf Club building today has a tower – the essential look-out area – comfortable club rooms, storage for all equipment, first aid room, well-equipped gym, and more;  serving the club into the twenty-first century, as the club has served Ōtaki since the early twentieth century.

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