Two halls built to last but left to ruin
Community halls, built to serve the needs of rural people, are in danger of extinction.
Traditionally, halls have been the pride of small communities, where many dances, gatherings, celebrations and school activities were held.
Some are facing closure as hall committees and councils eye up the costs of keeping them going.
The Matamata-Piako District Council is typical of other councils under constant strain to provide services while curbing spending.
At its April meeting, council’s decision to divest its interest in two community halls in the district may mean the buildings are removed or demolished.
The former Ngarua Hall, 18kms north west of Matamata has sat vacant since council decommissioned it in 2005.
Five years on, a licence to occupy the building until 2015 was granted to Nou Te Rorou Trust.
This is a charitable trust associated with Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha.
The trust approached council in 2015 with an interest in securing tenure of the site to develop it further for schoolrelated purposes.
A meeting on site showed several issues.
It included black mould and samples tested showed the potential to produce harmful toxins.
There were also various electrical and fire safety issues.
The school was informed for health and safety reasons, that the building was not to be used.
The school advised council it had no interest in the acquiring the land for educational purposes.
The comprehensive structural work the hall needed would be costly.
There is no guarantee of return on the investment.
So the council agreed to return the building, which is on Crown land, to the Department of Conser- vation.
Less than 10kms further west is the Waitoa Hall, built and serving its community since 1911.
It too, is in need of extensive repairs.
The hall has a growing list of maintenance issues estimated to cost $67,000 including re-piling and replacement of the roof.
Funded by targeted rates, the hall is owned by the community but there has been little interest in its retention.
The council agreed to decommission and remove the hall. It would assist the Red Cross which uses the hall, to relocate.
Left: The Department of Conservation will decide the fate of the Ngarua Hall. Above: Waitoa Hall was also in need of major repairs. A decision has been made to remove it.