Decision looms on hall’s fu­ture

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By TESSA JOHNSTONE

An ‘‘ugly old shack’’ or the ‘‘heart of the Bay’’ – it de­pends on who you ask, but the fate of a his­toric com­mu­nity hall in Porirua is likely to be de­cided soon.

The 70- year- old US Marines Hall, which has been home to Porirua Lit­tle The­atre for 40 years, was dis­cov­ered in 2012 to be badly wa­ter-dam­aged and has been closed since.

Porirua City Coun­cil ap­plied for con­sent to de­mol­ish the build­ing in April last year, but was de­nied per­mis­sion and the fu­ture of the build­ing has been a mat­ter of con­tro­versy since.

Nearly 180 peo­ple or or­gan­i­sa­tions have made writ­ten sub­mis­sions about the fu­ture.

A phone survey is also be­ing car­ried out this week.

More than half the sub­mis­sions sup­ported re­pair­ing the hall, with most keen to see it re­stored – the coun­cil es­ti­mates that could cost about $760,000.

‘‘It is an iconic part of Ti­tahi Bay. If it were to be de­mol­ished you can bet noth­ing would be done to re­place it,’’ one sub­mit­ter said.

‘‘Our fam­ily have en­joyed many great nights there, from box­ing tour­na­ments, con­certs and won­der­ful drama.

‘‘It is a unit­ing fea­ture in the Bay . . . it must be re­tained.’’

There is also back­ing to knock down the hall be­cause it is too

hall’s ex­pen­sive or too un­sightly.

It was de­scribed by sub­mit­ters as an ‘‘ugly old shack’’, a ‘‘blot on the land­scape’’ and ‘‘ a spooky build­ing – the kids call it a haunted house’’.

Porirua Lit­tle The­atre and Ti­tahi Bay Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion put in a joint sub­mis­sion that sup­ported restora­tion and asked that while it stay in com­mu­nity own­er­ship, the the­atre group be given a long-term lease.

Lit­tle The­atre pres­i­dent Sandy Brewer said restor­ing the hall would bring ‘‘the heart back to the Bay’’.

‘‘It would be a fa­tal blow to our lo­cal her­itage to de­stroy this build­ing as we re­flect on what makes us the city we are, and what makes us who we are. You only get one chance to save his­tory.’’

Sev­eral sub­mit­ters, in­clud­ing the The­atre, crit­i­cised Porirua City Coun­cil for not main­tain­ing the hall, which led to the ex­ten­sive dam­age.

His­toric Places Wellington pointed the fin­ger at the coun­cil for car­ry­ing out work that caused some of the dam­age.

That in­cluded block­ing vents in the foun­da­tion, which al­lowed wa­ter to run un­der the build­ing, and in­stalling faulty gut­ter­ing, which let wa­ter into the walls.

It said although the hall was ‘‘plain and util­i­tar­ian’’ in style, that did not de­tract from its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

Ti­tahi Bay coun­cil­lor Ken Dou­glas said that it was likely to be a ‘‘tense de­bate’’ and coun­cil and ratepay­ers needed to ques­tion whether restora­tion was value for money.

‘‘I don’t see a case ex­ist­ing in that con­text for throw­ing good money after bad for a build­ing whose time is al­ready ex­pired,’’ Dou­glas said.

He said Porirua had sev­eral un­der­used com­mu­nity halls and it was hard to jus­tify their main­te­nance when there were other fi­nan­cial pri­or­i­ties.

The coun­cil will can­vass a pre­ferred op­tion next month and it will be con­sid­ered as a part of the an­nual plan and next long-term plan pro­cesses.

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Crunch time: A decision could be made soon on the fate of Ti­tahi US Bay’s Marines Hall.

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