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