As far as early Christmas presents go, Queenstown’s Happiness House got one of the best this year.
General manager Robyn Francis says they’ve recently found out their lease – up in the air ever since their Park Street home was bought by Chinese businessman Dayou Cheng in June, 2017, for more than $2.2 million – has been extended for another two years.
Not long after Cheng snapped up the three-bed property, on a 693sqm section, he told his tenants they were good to stay until 2020, but they’ve just found out they don’t need to worry about finding another base until, at this stage, October, 2022.
“We are so thrilled,” Francis says.
“We weren’t expecting it, but it’s great news.”
The community support centre, which helps individuals and families in Queenstown struggling with day-to-day living costs and provides access to other services, has been operating from the same site for some 15 years now.
It was set up, informally, as a social resource centre in the late 1980s by Pat Bird and became a registered charitable trust in July, 2000, with services growing in response to the Wakatipu’s needs.
That growth’s continued unabated, Francis says.
The stay of execution at Park St gives them more time to find a permanent option – ideally a standalone option close to the Queenstown CBD.
That’s because about half of the people who use the services live in Glenorchy, Fernhill and downtown Queenstown.
The other half live around Frankton, Shotover Country, Lake Hayes Estate and Arrowtown.
Francis says Happiness House’s success is underpinned by it remaining true to the original mission, vision and values established by Bird.
It’s remained autonomous and has no affiliation with other groups and, aside from a small Ministry of Social Development contract, is not reliant on government funding.
Francis says they’re also incredibly grateful to the community’s support, particularly with donations.
“It is inherent in people’s natures to want to give and Happiness House continues to be an avenue for generous community giving, which has enabled us to continue to provide our services to this community.”