Unsafe theatre closed
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.