A new hub in Queenstown is more than a place for help and healing—it’s also a place for the community to come together. Ben Mack reports with photography by Lieutenant Semi Ratu of Ashburton Corps.
There were gooey, molten cheese rolls aplenty on Saturday 11 November in Queenstown, as The Salvation Army opened its new community hub.
But substantial servings of ‘southern sushi’ weren’t the only reason for high spirits, nor were famously fickle southern skies being bright and cheery.
Queenstown Corps Officer Lieutenant Andrew Wilson says the new, $10 million hub is The Salvation Army’s first in Frankton, one of the fastest-growing areas of Queenstown and the deep south.
‘It really embodies he waka eke noa,’ he says. ‘We are all in this together.’
The Salvation Army has had a presence in Queenstown since 1887—a span that’s seen the city transform from a small, rough-and-tumble gold mining town to the bustling adventure-tourism mecca it’s internationally known as today.
Although Queenstown attracts wealthy visitors from around the world, there’s still significant need in the community, where the cost of living is especially high and the lack of affordable housing is a serious issue. The Salvation Army’s last Queenstown building opened in 1990—back when the All Blacks had only won a single Rugby World Cup and the Soviet Union still existed.
With Frankton as a fast-growing area and increasing need in the community, especially away from Queenstown’s CBD, Andrew says there was a need for Salvation Army services to be more accessible to more people.
Work began in earnest on the community hub in 2018, and was still ongoing when the pandemic struck in 2020. But the teams soldiered on despite the extreme challenges (and long, bone-chillingly cold southern winters), leading to the hub’s opening on November 11, 2023.
‘We’re deeply rooted and embedded in the community,’ says Andrew. ‘It’s important that this building is a space for the community.’
That feeling of community support shows in the diverse array of services provided for everyone, regardless of their background. Services include a foodbank, financial mentoring, social support and counselling, and more. Community groups can even book out meeting rooms, multi-function rooms and the 150-seat auditorium.
There’s also a Family Store, which anyone can donate to and shop at. ‘You can’t build a Salvation Army building without a Family Store,’ laughs Wilson.
About 150 people were in attendance for the November 11th dawn blessing. The blessing was led by Ken Te Tau and Rangi McLean (kaumātua advisor to the Rūnanga at The Salvation Army). There was also waiata from Christchurch Māori Ministries, and a performance by the Dunedin Salvation Army brass band.
The following day was the first worship service at the new hub. It, too, featured waiata and the brass band. Andrew says worship services will be held each Sunday at 10.30am. He’s quick to point out everyone is welcome, no matter their faith background or if they have faith at all.
Andrew has already been getting enquiries about community ministries, children’s services and support for families. It’s a sign, he says, of both the need for support that exists in the community, and the sense of partnership the community feels over the new hub.
‘It’s really created a new buzz in the community,’ he says. ‘From the ground up, we’ve designed it with the community in mind. It’s a focal point of building community and resilience. It’s for people to live life to the fullest.’