Manawatu Standard

Community fights to save memorial hall

- Rachel Moore

A group of Horowhenua locals were rallying together in a bid to save an earthquake-prone war memorial.

The Horowhenua District Council owned the hall on Main St in Foxton. It was deemed earthquake-prone in 2014, and the council said it no longer wanted the hall in its 2018-2038 Long Term Plan.

A group of Foxton locals were trying to secure funding from the council and set up an incorporat­ed society to run, restore and preserve the hall.

The group’s acting president David Roache said the hall was a community asset, and housed a lot of history.

Roache said the council spent about $21,000 on the hall annually according to a 2018 report, and the group was only asking for $10,000 for six years.

The group predicted the hall would be self-sufficient in its seventh year.

‘‘We believe we are saving the council money.’’

Roache said the hall would not be retained if sold because it was not commercial­ly viable, but it was an important part of Foxton’s history.

He said the land was gifted for a war memorial, and with government funding and community fundraisin­g the funds were raised to build the hall.

It housed rolls of honour that were hung on the walls, naming those who had fought and lost their lives.

There was also a plaque at the front of the building. ‘‘We want to keep it in the community. We believe it’s a community asset and shouldn’t be sold.’’

Roache said local residents and the Foxton Community Board had supported the bid. ‘‘I haven’t had one person say we are wasting our time.’’

The hall and rooms on the south side of the hall would be rented out, and earthquake strengthen­ing was to be done in two years time.

Kiwi soldier Stuart Ellwood, who was killed in Vietnam, had a room of the hall named in his memory.

The 20-year-old gunner was killed on Waitangi Day, 1968, during the Tet Offensive. In 1994, at the suggestion of the Foxton RSA, the former library in the hall was renamed the ‘‘Stuart Ellwood Room’’.

Ellwood’s sister Ngaire Newland said she approached the council about what would happen to the room if the building was sold, and it named a room at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom after the soldier. ‘‘But, it’s not really the same,’’ she said. Newland was born and grew up in Foxton, and said there was a lot of history and memories in the hall.

The Horowhenua District Council did not respond to questions asked by Stuff before deadline, about what would happen if the community did not take ownership of the hall.

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