The hot pool at the new Wanaka Community Pool complex was at risk of being canned, but proceeded thanks to the generosity of two business identities and philanthropists, who bequeathed $1m to enrich the Upper Clutha community they held so dear.

Graham and Olive West were well known in and around Wanaka, operating their venture, Waterways – including the iconic launch, Malibu – during the 1950s and 1960s, following their move from Auckland. In 1987, they established the Graham and Olive West Charitable Trust, with the Upper Clutha community named as its beneficiary.

Trust chair Janice Hughes says Mr West passed away in 1995, and Mrs West in 2010. The trust’s funds became available for distribution the following year, after the high-profile sale of the couple’s lakefront home on Ardmore St, and the subsequent winding up of Mrs West’s estate.

In line with the Wests’ wishes, about $1m is being distributed in the Upper Clutha over a decade. While the Wests’ overarching criterion was that grants provide a clear benefit to the local community, Janice says the couple provided examples of those they were keen to see their bequest support and benefit, including children, senior citizens and the disabled. They also wanted to see funds dedicated to medical equipment and initiatives, as well as emergency services.

“For us, as trustees, this is such a heart-warming role, and one that is an absolute privilege,” Janice says.

“We’re now at about the half-way mark of distributing Graham and Olive’s community bequest. We’re talking around $100,000 a year that this wonderful couple has gifted – that’s a significant annual injection of donations into what is a relatively small community.”

While grant applications typically fell between $5000 and $50,000, an exception was made for the Queenstown Lakes District Council’s request of $100,000 to fund the hot pool at Wanaka’s new aquatic complex.

“As trustees, we were really mindful this amounted, essentially, to a full year’s round of funding, so we had to be absolutely sure it was suitable, before committing such a large sum. The more we worked through it, the more it became apparent what a perfect fit funding the hot pool was,” Janice says.

“Graham and Olive were all about the community, particularly the kids and the seniors, and were particularly passionate about the community’s needs around health and well-being. And, of course, they had such a strong connection with the water through their business. In the end, funding the hot pool ticked all the boxes.

“Not only is it a wonderful addition to the pool complex recreationally, now athletes, and those recovering from accidents and illness, have a heated pool they can use for hydrotherapy.

“From what I know of Graham and Olive, they were very humble people, so I’m not sure they would have wanted too much by way of fuss. But, we feel, as well as being a community asset, the hot pool is a fitting legacy and public remembrance for a couple that’s given so much to this community, both in life and beyond.”

Janice says, during the planning stages, funding streams were stretched to capacity to cover the rest of the complex, and plans for the hot pool were at risk of being shelved.

“So, we’re pretty chuffed the trust could make the hot pool a reality in the Wests’ names, and that it’s something that’s going to benefit all of our community for decades to come.”

As well as Janice, current trustees include: West family representative Russell Umbers, Wanaka accountant Alistair King, Queenstown Lakes District councillor Ross McRobie, and Presbyterian Support Otago representative Michael Parker.

The trust has also recently announced nearly $100,000 worth of further funding for Upper Clutha groups for the current financial year. They include two grants to Alpine Community Development Trust/Community Networks – $5000 that will go toward operational expenses, and $2280 in funding for a programme for parents of children experiencing anxiety. Girl Guiding New Zealand receives $1000 toward a camp at Lake Hawea.

Montessori Children's House has been granted $7500 to help renovate the children’s bathroom and replace a sandpit cover, while $15,000 goes to Presbyterian Support Otago for social work services and the provision of a Buddy Programme in Wanaka. The UC Radio Telephone Users Association receives $29,941 to replace the current generator source supply on Mt Roy.

The Upper Clutha Senior Citizens’ Club has been granted $11,279 to continue running its Prime Timers’ club and programme, while the Wanaka Guide and Scout Group receives $3800 to replace existing windows with safety glass, and install donated ranch sliders.

The trust granted Wanaka Riding for the Disabled $632 to cover insurance premiums, plus shirts for volunteers and riders, and is donating $1240 to Wanaka Pre-school Early Childhood Centre to help with communication screening, therapy sessions for families needing financial assistance and resources for special needs children.

Wheels to Dunstan receives $1200 to replace wheels on its vehicle, and Wanaka Yacht Club has been granted $17,622 to help buy a new rescue support boat.

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