Kiah Community Hall Reopens: A New Chapter for the Community after Black Summer

The new Kiah Community Hall was officially opened this week, marking a fresh chapter for the community.

It has been a four-year journey to open this beautiful new hall, which took the dedication of the Bega Valley Shire Council, the hall committee, and partners such as ABV and Arup. The original Kiah Hall and the Kiah Catholic Church were destroyed in the 2020 black summer bushfires.

MP Kirsty McBain, who cut the ribbon at the opening, said, "Country halls are the heart and soul of communities, a gathering place of connection especially in times of trauma."

In seeing the stunning, finished result, we want to recognise the tireless efforts of the committee and the volunteers behind bringing this hall to fruition.

It's important to remember that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes in projects like this. In 2021, the former Bega MP Andrew Constance and Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick secured funding for the hall rebuild under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund.

However, this rebuild would require additional funding. The committee pooled resources from the generous donations to the Hall fund and  Hall's insurance money to purchase the Church ground from the Pambula Catholic Parish.  The Church ground proved a much better location to build the new hall.

The Kiah Hall project had hit a roadblock: A road safety concept plan was required to get building approval for the hall. There is a dangerous turn-off from the Princes Highway onto Kiah Hall Road. Because of this, the building development application required approval for an intersection road safety concept plan from Transport NSW.

A key problem: no funding was factored in for the road safety plan, so the project stalled again.

At the time, Arup engineers and ABV were already working on road remediation plans in Kiah to repair roads the fire had destroyed. While in the area, the need for a road safety concept plan for Kiah Hall arose. 

In October 2022, Australian Business Volunteers facilitated a powerful collaboration between the Council's Kiah Hall Project Management lead team, Gemma Gill, Mark Baker, Clare McMahon and members of the Arup team, Ed Rowe, Glenda Yiu, Brad Massey, and Alex Duffy.

Arup's expertise was pro-bono to avoid additional costs not covered by the funding. An intersection road safety plan is a significant cost, and the entire Arup project is estimated at 60-80k of donated expertise.

Because of this delay with the road safety requirements, they risked having to return the funding if they didn't meet their March 2023 deadline. Fortunately, they were granted an extension to June 2024.

Once Arup got involved, it took them less than three months to complete the road safety concept plans. Without this road safety plan, the hall wouldn't have been able to be constructed. Transport NSW approved the hall development within a month of receiving Arup's plans.

Senior Program Manager George Barrett attended the ribbon-cutting, with Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick, State MP Dr. Michael Holland, MP Kristy McBain and Committee Member John Thorpe, standing in for the sadly missed Clare McMahon.

Image source: 2ec News - Jame Fennessy

The Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF) is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

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