Un­safe the­atre closed

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Porirua Lit­tle The­atre is likely to be torn down af­ter rou­tine main­te­nance un­cov­ered se­vere struc­tural prob­lems.

The the­atre com­pany was banned from en­ter­ing the White­house Rd build­ing on Au­gust 17 af­ter Porirua City Coun­cil main­te­nance work­ers dis­cov­ered ex­ten­sive wa­ter dam­age.

An en­gi­neer’s re­port was still be­ing pre­pared last week but there has been a ver­bal rec­om­men­da­tion to de­mol­ish the build­ing, says Euan Dempsey, the coun­cil’s gen­eral man­ager of cor­po­rate ser­vices.

‘‘The struc­tural in­tegrity of the build­ing just doesn’t pass muster.’’

The coun­cil-owned build­ing was built as a can­teen by US Marines in the 1940s. It was used as a box­ing hall be­fore the the­atre com­pany moved in the early 1970s.

A fire sev­eral years ago added to the build­ing’s plight, Mr Dempsey says.

The prob­lems were only dis­cov­ered when weath­er­boards and gut­ter­ing were re­moved from the build­ing, which is why an­nual rou­tine in­spec­tions have failed to un­cover the is­sues.

De­spite the build­ing’s his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, the coun­cil is not will­ing to pay for re­pairs, Mr Dempsey says.

‘‘It sim­ply would not be eco­nom­i­cal to re­pair it.’’

Porirua Lit­tle The­atre pres­i­dent Sandy Brewer says de­mo­li­tion would be dev­as­tat­ing.

‘‘It will be heart-wrench­ing for a lot of peo­ple if we can’t use the space, be­cause there’s a lot of his­tory and a lot of at­tach­ment,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely a bit of a blow. We have to work our way through it.’’

The tres­pass came out of the blue, she says.

‘‘We’ve had very lit­tle notice of what’s go­ing on.’’

Re­hearsals for the up­com­ing pro­duc­tion Disco In­ferno, which Ms Brewer is di­rect­ing, have been moved to nearby Ni­b­lick Hall and Ngati Toa School.

The com­pany will be look­ing to the coun­cil and the community to pro­vide a new home if the the­atre is knocked down.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously we’re a not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion and a community the­atre, we don’t have a lot of re­sources of our own. If worse comes to worst, we will be look­ing for some help from peo­ple, the community, to find a so­lu­tion given the his­tory we have got,’’ Ms Brewer says.

Ide­ally a city-wide per­form­ing arts the­atre would be put back on the agenda, sim­i­lar to the Whi­tireia-led project the coun­cil pulled out of in July, she says.

‘‘We def­i­nitely will be seek­ing a new home, we’re ob­vi­ously a huge part of the land­scape as far as his­tory and pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment for the community.’’

Mayor Nick Leggett says re­viv­ing the per­form­ing arts cen­tre project is not an op­tion.

‘‘The orig­i­nal con­cept of that was about hav­ing the Per­form­ing Arts School at Whi­tireia, as well as a community arts venue. That’s quite dif­fer­ent from a community the­atre,’’ he says.

There is no longer a bud­get for the the­atre in the city’s long term plan, he says.

The coun­cil needs to wait for the en­gi­neer’s re­port and gather community ad­vice be­fore the fu­ture of the the­atre can be con­sid­ered, Mr Leggett says.

‘‘ This is a much- loved community the­atre. We want to make sure what­ever de­ci­sion is made, we do it with that in mind.’’

Con­demned: Porirua Lit­tle The­atre has been sealed off af­ter mas­sive struc­tural prob­lems were dis­cov­ered on Au­gust 17. The build­ing will prob­a­bly be de­mol­ished.

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