The idea of forming a Lions Club in the Ohai-Nightcaps area was first suggested in 1968 by Eleanor Smith, the president of the Ohai – Nightcaps Businessmen’s Association. At a public meeting at Ohai, the comment was made that, apparently through a general lack of interest in the community, the district appeared to be stagnating. The chairman of the meeting, Peter Wilding, urged people to get out and do something for themselves, and Eleanor Smith suggested to her Association that they look at establishing a Lions Club.
At a further meeting at Ohai, Arthur Gray from the Otautau Lions Club spoke on the movement and it was resolved to contact prominent members of the community and ask them to hold a meeting, with the aim of chartering a Lions Club under the sponsorship of the Otautau Lions Club.
The Ohai – Nightcaps Lions Club was chartered on the 10th November 1968 with 31 members. The club has served the district well since then, taking part in many projects including scrap-metal drives, developing children’s playgrounds and picnic areas, senior citizens trips, machinery displays, shearing record attempts, Guy Fawkes displays, swede selling projects, bowls and golf tournaments, selling potatoes and chaff and distributing grapefruit.
The club has produced district telephone books and a telephone appeal in 1982 raised $20,000 towards the cost of having a local doctor. In 1988, gaming machines were installed in local hotels. The first project to benefit from funds raised with these machines was hepatitis B vaccination for all district residents. By February 2013, more than $1.25 million had been returned to the community through the gaming machines. The club ceased to operate gaming machines in October, 2014 when the Railway Hotel, Nightcaps changed ownership.
The Club’s largest project has been the dismantling of the old Aparima Bridge at Wreys Bush in 1979.
In 2008 the club organised a mountain biking race through the Gowan Hill forestry at Opio. Called the Gowan Hill Classic it was expanded over consecutive years to include races for all ages and fitness levels and incorporated a run and walk for the 2012 event. A popular event in the Southern Mountain Biking calendar, it has raised in excess of $54,000 for community services and facilities. The event was refreshed in 2013 with a new venue, new courses and a new name. The Mt Linton Muster is held on the third Saturday in March each year.
Members of the club who have served at zone and district level include Harold Boult (District Governor 1974-75), Brian Sinclair (Cabinet Secretary 1974-75), Don Heenan (Zone Chairman 1974-74), Neil Paterson (Zone Chairman 1993-94), Bill Mather (Zone Chairman 1998-99, Cabinet Secretary 2005-08 & District Treasurer 2008-10), Sandra Carmichael (District Governor 2005-06, District Trustee, Lloyd Morgan Lions Clubs Charitable Trust 2015-18), Laurence Skeggs (Zone Chairman 2011-13), Jocelyn Sinclair (Zone Chairman 2014-15, Region Chairman 2015-16, Global Leadership 2016-19) and Jerry Schuurmans (Zone Chairman 2018-19).
Life Memberships have been awarded to Harold Boult, Brian Sinclair and Graeme Edginton. Harold Boult was awarded the Lions highest honour, a Melvin Jones Fellowship, at the 25th charter anniversary dinner in November 1993.
The Citizen of the Year Award, later renamed the Community Service Award, began in 1996 to recognise an individual’s commitment, achievement, community service and leadership. The first recipient was Graeme Sinclair of Nightcaps, followed by Leslie Smith (1997), Con Lloyd (1998), Moyra Hogg (1999), Jill Smith (2000), Harold Boult (2001), Eleanor Peneha (2002), Allan (Fisher) Klemick (2003), John Hogg (2004), Eric & Raeleen Sinclair (2006), Eleanor Colligan (2008), Ilse Todd (2010), Stan Todd (2012), Bev Evans (2014), Polly Paul (2016) and Conrad Waihape (2018).
The club admitted women in 1992 and it currently (December 2019) has 18 members.
The Club registered as a Charitable Trust in June 2008.