No re­sponse to Oruru pe­ti­tion

The Northland Age - - Local News -

If the O¯ ruru and In­land Val­leys Ratepayer As­so­ci­a­tion hoped a 700-sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion would prise open the Far North Dis­trict Coun­cil’s wal­let, it would have been dis­ap­pointed.

The O¯ ruru Hall, widely known as the Swamp Palace (although the cin­ema that gave it that name has long gone), was built in 1902 for the cable sta­tion at Cable Bay, and was later shifted up­river for use as a com­mu­nity hall.

It was closed for safety rea­sons in July, af­ter an in­spec­tion by coun­cil staff found it had de­te­ri­o­rated badly.

Speak­ing to last week’s coun­cil meet­ing, as­so­ci­a­tion deputy chair Kath Adams said in 2014 coun­cil staff had found the build­ing was in need of $593,000 worth of de­ferred main­te­nance. Fol­low­ing meet­ings be­tween the as­so­ci­a­tion, the coun­cil and Te Hiku Com­mu­nity Board, the coun­cil al­lo­cated $250,000 in its 2014-15 bud­get for ‘struc­tural re­in­state­ment,’ but the money had never ma­te­ri­alised.

The de­ci­sion to fur­ther de­fer the fund­ing, she said, had been based on false in­for­ma­tion that the hall wasn’t be­ing used.

“The com­mu­nity feels very let down. We’ve had enough of be­ing ig­nored,” Ms Adams said. The as­so­ci­a­tion had been re­quest­ing in­for­ma­tion on the pre­cise rea­sons for the hall’s clo­sure for three months, but had yet to re­ceive a clear ex­pla­na­tion.

The as­so­ci­a­tion was keen to as­sume own­er­ship of the hall and seek ex­ter­nal fund­ing for up­grades, but was un­able to do any­thing un­til struc­tural re­pairs were car­ried out.

The pe­ti­tion called on the coun­cil to carry out ur­gent health and safety re­pairs so the hall could re­open, and to pro­vide a time­line for the rest of the re­pairs.

Its plans in­cluded ap­ply­ing to Her­itage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga for her­itage sta­tus.

Cr Mate Radich, how­ever, said the hall was in “a hell of a state,” and ques­tioned how many func­tions it hosted. Most peo­ple pre­ferred to the Eastern Rugby Club rooms at Taipa, he said.

Ms Adams said the hall hosted about 30 events a year, but later re­vised that to 66 book­ings in the six months un­til it was closed in July. Those book­ings in­cluded dance re­hearsals, con­certs, pri­vate func­tions, com­mit­tee-or­gan­ised events and meet­ings.

Mayor John Carter re­sponded by promis­ing to call a pub­lic meet­ing to dis­cuss the hall’s fu­ture, adding that a wider dis­cus­sion about the Far North’s com­mu­nity halls was also needed.

“We have 27 pub­lic halls and some pri­vate halls around the dis­trict. We need to ask ratepay­ers if they are happy to keep pay­ing for all these halls,” he said.

A date for the pub­lic meet­ing has yet to be set.

PIC­TURE / PETER DE GRAAF

Oruru ¯ and In­land Val­leys Ratepayer As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers John Folkard (chair­man, left), Kath Adams (deputy chair) and Tracey McClurg (com­mit­tee mem­ber) about to present a pe­ti­tion call­ing on the Far North Dis­trict Coun­cil to save the Swamp Palace.

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