Eketahuna ball committee member Callum Skeet says the Eketahuna community benefits greatly from its health centre. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

Tonight, Eketahuna residents will party in their best preloved garments at the Great Eketahuna Ball.

Profits from the ball would provide a much-needed boost for the underfunded Eketahuna Community Health Centre.

“The whole concept of the ball started with some friends,” Eketahuna ball committee member Callum Skeet said.

The friends were having pre-Christmas drinks when Kuranui College social science teacher Liz Verkleij proposed the idea of organising a ball in Eketahuna.

“There were enough of us around the table, and we’d probably had enough beers to go, well, that sounds like a good idea … That was the ball committee right there,” Skeet said.

The committee then considered what they would do if the ball turned a profit. They decided the obvious choice would be to donate the proceeds to the Health Centre.

In 1988, the Eketahuna Community Health Centre had become the first nurse-led clinic in the country.

It was now a leader among rural health clinics.

Skeet’s wife Kate – also on the ball committee – had previously been on the health centre committee as the fundraising officer.

“Every year they have to keep searching through grants and whatever funds they can raise to keep the place operating,” Skeet said.

He said the community benefited greatly from the health centre – which also provided holistic services such as yoga sessions and tea groups – and giving back felt like the right thing to do.

With more than 80 tickets already sold, the ball committee had covered their expenses and now looked forward to determining the total amount it could donate.

Skeet said businesses had shown great support for the event. Four Square owner Tanmay Patel would provide the alcohol on consignment, meaning organisers would only have to pay for what they used on the night.

The committee had no monetary goal in mind, simply aiming to make a surplus.

“From my perspective, if we can give them $50 or $200, and everyone has had a great time on the night, then that’s a win,” Skeet said.

“The surplus will be more than that, but anything more is a bonus.”

Tickets were affordable at $50 acouple or $30 a single, and the dress-code was ‘pre-loved’, meaning guests should not feel inclined to spend money on expensive clothing.

“Hopefully, people will turn up in old brown polyester suits with bellbottoms and wide ties, and other outrageous items.”

Eketahuna Health Centre committee chairwoman Adrienne Dempsey welcomed the fundraiser with open arms.

The centre faced increased costs due to a settlement of the nurses’ Multi-Employer Collective Agreement, which meant nurses would be paid increased wages, including backpay.

However, to date the centre had not received any additional MidCentral District Health Board funding to cover these costs.

“We’re open Monday to Friday, 50 weeks a year, and we run on a budget of $150,000 a year,” Dempsey said.

She said that patients in 2021 were presenting more often and with more complex health needs than in 2002, when the centre’s funding contract with MidCentral DHB was initiated.

“It’s taking our nurses more time and more effort to look after our patients than it was 20 years ago.”

An increased prevalence of heart disease among New Zealanders, and the fact people were living longer, combined to put more strain on the health centre.

Dempsey said the centre had been running at a deficit of $10,000-$15,000 for the past two years.

“That’s not sustainable,” Dempsey said.

“We haven’t got huge surpluses of cash.”

She said the ball was an exciting opportunity for a community emerging from the horrors of covid-19.

“It’s a feel-good event and if it can raise some money for the community and for the health centre, then all well and good.”

  • Tickets for the Great Eketahuna Ball on Saturday, April 17, are available online or on the door from 6.30pm at the Eketahuna Community Centre.


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