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The Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing is to un­dergo earth­quake strength­en­ing work fol­low­ing a re­cent coun­cil de­ci­sion to ap­prove the works at a cost of $8.8 mil­lion, as part of re­de­vel­op­ing the wider arts precinct.

In 2016, when the coun­cil held full con­sul­ta­tion to help find the best fu­ture for the Opera House, Plaza and Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing, the pub­lic agreed that new uses needed to be found for the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing.

At the end of last month the coun­cil con­sid­ered strength­en­ing at least part of the her­itage-listed build­ing to en­able full use of the Opera House.

The coun­cil re­ceived le­gal advice that any at­tempt to de­mol­ish the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing would, if chal­lenged, have a very low prospect of be­ing ap­proved.

Her­itage New Zealand also con­firmed that it would not sup­port demolition, and would sub­mit against any demolition pro­posal.

The only prac­ti­cal op­tion left to the coun­cil was to ap­prove the de­ci­sion to strengthen the build­ing, with the costs cov­ered from funds al­ready al­lo­cated in the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan.

Ex­ter­nal fund­ing sup­port would also be sought to help fund the work.

Gemco Con­struc­tion had been awarded the earth­quake strength­en­ing con­tract, and the coun­cil was sched­uled to sub­mit a build­ing con­sent ap­pli­ca­tion for the work this month.

In the mean­time ini­tial draft con­cepts for a fu­ture use of the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing had been re­leased for the pub­lic to con­sider, and more com­pre­hen­sive con­sul­ta­tion on these would be held next year, in­clud­ing cost es­ti­mates and a sup­port­ing busi­ness case. The coun­cil’s Opera House arts and precinct com­mit­tee chair­man Mal­colm Dixon said the de­ci­sion to strengthen the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing co­in­cided with the con­cept plans for us­ing the build­ing go­ing out for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

“These are ex­cit­ing times for all con­cerned, as this build­ing is part of Hast­ings’ his­toric her­itage. As part of the precinct it is ideally sited to be­come an in­te­gral part of our fu­ture.”

Rede­vel­op­ment of the Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing is stage three of the Opera House precinct up­grade project. The other two are the earth­quake strength­en­ing of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House and rede­vel­op­ment of the Plaza into an all-weather venue.

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