More drama for the play­house

Rotorua Review - - OUT & ABOUT - MATT SHAND

There was plenty of drama at Ro­torua Lakes Council when council agreed to spend $1 mil­lion in­ves­ti­gat­ing a new de­sign for the re­cently closed Sir Howards Mor­ri­son Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre.

The cen­tre was closed last week after it was was re­vealed the build­ing was not up to earth­quake stan­dards and a safety risk.

In June the council agreed to in­ves­ti­gate how the site could be mod­ernised, and a busi­ness case de­vel­oped. Seven de­signs were dis­cussed on Thurs­day with staff rec­om­mend­ing un­der­tak­ing a earth­quake strength­en­ing, mod­i­fy­ing the con­cert cham­ber to fit 100-300 seat per­for­mances and ex­pand­ing the Civic The­atre to 1000 seats.

It is es­ti­mated the rec­om­mended de­sign would cost be­tween $11 and $21 mil­lion if com­pleted but an ex­act fig­ure will not be known un­til proper de­sign work has been un­der­taken. Council staff said up­grad­ing the mu­seum could cre­ate a new rev­enue stream for council and make Ro­torua an at­trac­tive op­tion for pro­mot­ers of big stage shows who need larger seat­ing ca­pac­ity.

Mayor Steve Chad­wick sup­ported the idea say­ing and said the per­form­ing arts cen­tre re­vamp could be sim­i­lar to the Ro­torua Mu­seum trans­for­ma­tion that was com­pleted a decade ago.

‘‘Do­ing noth­ing is not an op­tion,’’ she said. ‘‘We have to do some­thing.

‘‘We have got to move to 1000 seats be­cause we will lose our com­pet­i­tive edge oth­er­wise.’’

Sur­vey work un­der­taken by council staff showed 92 per cent had an in­ter­est in per­form­ing arts in some level but only 57 per cent had been to an event or show in Ro­torua over the last 12 months. This was put down to poor mar­ket­ing of the venue.

How­ever coun­cil­lor Rob Kent said the thought of spend­ing $1 mil­lion plan­ning some­thing the city could not af­ford in any in­stance was mis­guided.

‘‘How can we spent one mil­lion try­ing to turn a sow ear into a silk purse,’’ he said.

‘‘Last time this came up we were ask­ing the com­mu­nity to see if they would al­low us to spend $6 mil­lion on the per­form­ing arts cen­tre and the re­sult was a re­sound­ing no.

‘‘We should look at how best we spend as we are go­ing to be short on money. We have a lot of projects to spend this money on. We should come back to it.’’

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