Fountain: Save or demolish?
The public will decide the fate of a well-known water feature outside Matamata’s soon-to-be redeveloped civic centre.
The feature was gifted to the community by Peter (Pete) George Petersen and was unveiled by the Governor General Sir Paul Reeves in 1988.
Matamata-Piako District Council decided it would be removed and a plaque for Petersen displayed when the new MatamataPiako Civic and Memorial Centre was constructed in Tainui St.
The council was told by staff it had the blessing of Petersen’s descendants to go ahead but the family has made a court injunction to prevent it from being removed.
The family instead want the council to consult with the community to see if people would like it to remain, before a decision was made to pull the plug on the water feature.
Matamata-Piako Mayor Jan Barnes has apologised for what appears to be a communications error between the council and the family.
‘‘Being a resident of Matamata myself, I should have dug a bit deeper myself and I apologise.’’
Sgt ‘‘Pete’’ Petersen was an air force wireless operator in World War II who was decorated for rescuing his crewmen after their plane crashed during a training exercise.
As a part of his bequest, Petersen also left a sizeable cash donation to be used for the up keep of the water feature.
But it’s not operating at the moment because a pump on it needs to be repaired or replaced.
It’s understood a relative in Australia was initially contacted but Petersen’s first-cousin Avelda Swyney said there were five family members still living in the district.
One relative in Matamata, who ‘‘caught wind’’ of the proposal had tried to contact the council about the matter in December, she said.
Another relative Steve Petersen said his uncle gave the gift to the town and the town should now be asked whether they want to retain it or not.
‘‘The council has allowed the water feature to run down to the state it is currently. The family’s view is, if the people of the town want it gone, then the family is happy with that. Uncle Pete would have been happy with that.
‘‘But let it go to the people, it was given to them, let them have a voice.’’
Despite no record in the council’s minutes, it claims to have discussed replacing the fountain with a meeting room named after Peter Petersen and a plaque next to the roll of honour in the new civic centre.
Council has other options but wanted the family to have input rather than present them with a solution.
Barnes is adamant the public can have its say.
‘‘Council needs to balance and say what is best for the ratepayer as well. Mr Petersen has a memory we want to refresh,’’ she said.
No alternative sites were sought to relocate the feature and ‘‘to retain it would cost the ratepayer an estimated $50,000 or $250,000 to replace it’’, Barnes said.
The cost of removal and pavement reinstatement is estimated at $30,000. Replacing a pump could be as high as $24,000, plus yearly maintenance of $4500.
No date has been set for the end of consultation.
The family has had three offers from the public to pay for replacing the faulty pumps.
Left and below: The water fountain feature outside the memorial centre on Tainui St. Below left: The memorial plaque for the fountain was unveiled by the then Governor General, Sir Paul Reeves in 1988. Bottom: A picture of the fountain not long after its construction.
MatamataPiako Mayor Jan Barnes wants the community to have a say over the future of the water fountain.