Theatre group deserves praise
Porirua Little Theatre should be applauded for its brave leap into its building ownership of the Marines Hall at 20 Whitehouse Rd, Titahi Bay.
The theatre group, which has a track record of getting things done, will need full community support if it is to make a fist of its latest undertaking.
The Marines Hall saga has had many twists and turns, but there is now cautious optimism, even from Porirua City Council, which could sell the building to Porirua Little Theatre for $1 should a concrete business case be presented.
Last December, councillors voted to demolish it, condemning it as an eyesore not worth restoring and of little historical value.
Social media went into overdrive, which highlighted that there was a strong desire in Porirua – and further afield – to restore the hall to its former glory.
Understandably Porirua Little Theatre officials want out of their pop- up theatre in Lydney Place. That was meant to be a three-month temporary home.
Two years later the theatre group is still there.
A recent report noted that the council was losing income by not taking a market rent on Lydney Place, so the sooner Porirua Little Theatre is out, the better.
But now that the theatre group has made its excellent proposal public, its supporters need to offer time and resources.
The group’s president, Sandy Brewer, said it had the backing of scaffolders, plumbers, architects and other professionals, along with many other willing workers.
Now’s the time for those people to get their minds working and their hands dirty.
Porirua Little Theatre’s vision includes improving the structural state of the hall, making it look attractive on the outside, developing a longerterm redesign of the layout and, importantly, making it available for all sorts of community activities.
Here’s hoping the $330,000 estimate for repairs is accurate, or else spiralling costs will spell the death knell for the project and the council’s dormant demolition plans will be revived.
The council, meanwhile, is taking a big risk with its Shared Responsibility Scheme fund, which will help out Porirua Little Theatre to the tune of $247,000.
Having being stung by the Bernie Wood Turf situation, it is understandable that mayor Nick Leggett and his colleagues want a solid business case for the Marines Hall by August 1 or they will not give their support.
It’s a shame Titahi Bay Residents Association could not come on board for this project, but its turbulent recent history suggested a compromise with the city council and Porirua Little Theatre was always going to be difficult to reach.
It is certainly easy to understand Brewer’s desire not to be a tenant of another group. ‘‘Why would we, when we have the opportunity to be our own landlord?’’ she said.
For the residents association, it is an opportunity lost, but the door is not closed and Brewer is hopeful the association will be part of the community input if the theatre group is successful with its business case.
Good luck to Porirua Little Theatre. Here’s hoping the shoulders are broad enough to take the weight of responsibility, because there’s still a difficult road to be traversed with this issue.