Simple solution for Globe access
Five years after the $2.4 million makeover of Palmerston North’s Globe Theatre, a plan has finally been agreed to provide access for more than two wheelchairs at a time.
The city council’s arts, culture and heritage committee has recommended a solution that would involve widening the central aisle to accommodate more people in wheelchairs in the main auditorium.
It would abandon an earlier plan to build a covered passageway around the outside of the building to the fire exit door by the front of the stage.
Globe Theatre Trust Board chairwoman Maxine Dale, also a member of the Disabled Persons Assembly and manager at the Ryder Cheshire residential centre, said she was absolutely delighted with the breakthrough.
‘‘It will be something that will be done in the very near future.’’
She said people in wheelchairs would be thrilled to be able to attend performances where they could sit with their friends and have flexibility to move.
At the moment, there were two spots for wheelchairs just inside the door.
Those people had to be last to go in, and first to leave, to make room for others coming and going through the door.
The lack of proper mobility access at The Globe has been an issue for the trust board and council for many years.
The passageway around the outside of the building was not included in the 2012-2013 makeover that saw a second auditorium added, along with a cafe and bar.
The council retained a project in its budget to build the $143,000 passage, assuming the trust board would raise half the money.
But this year, mayor Grant Smith said it was the council’s responsibility as owner of the building to provide mobility access.
Property manager John Brenkley said it had become clear the walkway option could not be built within the current budget.
It would be difficult to get the slope of the passageway right, and it would be complicated working around existing low eaves, steel columns and foundations.
The new plan involves extending the centre aisle that runs across the centre of the auditorium further forward to create a wider, flat area for wheelchairs.
One row of seats would be replaced with seats that could be easily removed when necessary, and the four rows of seats in front would be moved closer toward the stage.
The expected cost would be $36,000, which the council would pay for without a contribution from the trust board.
Two councillors, Leonie Hapeta and Susan Baty, said it should be paid for jointly, but the majority of the councillors disagreed.
Committee chairwoman Rachel Bowen said putting the burden of fundraising back on the trust board created the risk the work would not be done promptly.
Cr Lorna Johnson said it would be ‘‘shameful’’ to delay any further.
‘‘This is something that has been hanging around for a number of years, and further delays cannot be justified.’’
Cr Vaughan Dennison said the council had received plenty of deputations over the years seeking a better deal for theatregoers with disabilities. ‘‘We have the budget. ‘‘This is a prudent solution and we want action.’’
Cr Karen Naylor said the plan would be better if the narrow doorway to the auditorium was widened at the same time.
Senior property assets officer Jocelyn Broderick said that option could be further considered.
Dale said widening the doorway could require major structural work and might not be practical.
Palmerston North’s Globe Theatre makeover excluded better access for wheelchairs. That is about to be resolved.