The future for many community halls remains bleak

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Community halls across New Zealand are seen as “a glue that binds us together,” but some of these aging buildings face an uncertain future.

Following a law that came into effect last year requiring homeowners to reduce all buildings to 34 percent of the building code or to demolish them, a shadow has been cast over the viability of many heritage buildings, including town halls and community halls.

The long-term plans of the Horowhenua District Council include decisions on the fate of five public halls. Staff have recommended selling or demolishing to keep costs down, but after public bids and debate, two will be sold and three will be put on hold while investigations continue.

Construction has started to restore and strengthen Christchurch Town Hall, but costs have climbed to $ 152 million.

DAVID WALKER / STUFF

Construction has started to restore and strengthen Christchurch Town Hall, but costs have climbed to $ 152 million.

Matamata Piako District Council has downgraded four rooms in its region while two more are in the process of being downgraded. Western Bay of Plenty District Council has sold two hall sites in the past five years, and Masterton District Council Town Hall was closed in June 2016 due to an earthquake index lower than the standard required.

READ MORE:
* Shannon residents say town hall is not a piece of advice for sale
* Too much investment in earthquake-prone buildings for rural towns
* The government has asked for $ 10 million to help build the Wellington Town Hall Music Center
* Pelorus Sound War Memorial faces potential ruin

But there’s an argument that halls represent something bigger than a ledger item to cost and sell.

Shannon Memorial Hall, Rey Street, Shannon.  - Jarrod Rider, farmer from Shannon, outside the room.

WARWICK SMITH / STUFF

Shannon Memorial Hall, Rey Street, Shannon. – Jarrod Rider, farmer from Shannon, outside the room.

In Shannon, the hall was built with donated labor and money long before the current District Council existed. Some residents claim that counselors from outside their community are prohibited from selling their room under them.

Mayor Michael Feyen expects residents to step up to save three people in danger as communities appreciate their use and cherish the history and importance of the rooms as war memorials.

“The Foxton Memorial Hall has been repainted and remodeled inside recently; it’s really beautiful. It just seems crazy to turn it into an earthquake prone building when we can fix it. There aren’t any. ‘others like them in the area. “

Shannon Memorial Hall, Rey Street, Shannon.

WARWICK SMITH / STUFF

Shannon Memorial Hall, Rey Street, Shannon.

But the cost of reinforcement is often “significant,” said Robyn Phipps, director of Massey University’s construction department.

“They occupy an important place. Some date back to the time of the settlers and they became a social hub in the 1960s. They were the place where there was Saturday night dancing and school productions. It is a complex question, and on the compromise between heritage and certain standards and public funds.

The first unreinforced ornate masonry are the most vulnerable.

Taihape town hall in 1923.

TAIHAPE MUSEUM

Taihape town hall in 1923.

“It’s very brittle,” she said. While “older wooden buildings work very well, wood is very ductile,” malleable.

Town halls nationwide span the breadth of aesthetics, from simple rural wooden structures to ornate Victorian masonry relics to tired mid-century monoliths and common uses include yoga, groups of games, wedding receptions, birthdays, revivals, school productions, fundraising events, community barbecues, community classes and fairs.

“I like to restore our heritage buildings where possible, but sometimes that cannot be the case due to the cost of upgrading them for earthquake codes, durability, acoustics, and so people of all ages. abilities can use them, ”said Phipps. .

Taihape has a population of around 1,500, but upgrading its aging town hall could cost $ 2.5 million, Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson said. However, if they decide not to keep it, they still consider the cost of selling or removing it.

The town hall has just allocated funds to a new multipurpose center for Taureaux followed by two other municipalities. They will replace aging rooms, combining them with libraries and information centers to help minimize costs by using the same staff, he said.

But Watson does not like to modernize without keeping the links with the past and supports the work to try to save the heritage buildings of the district.

“It’s not just our board rooms, there are a number of private rooms in rural areas, and some have a huge sense of history. Across New Zealand, it’s a huge cost. . It puts pressure on all kinds of other things… in your budget. “

Like many others, the council is in talks to seek help from the central government’s new $ 3 billion provincial development fund. But Watson says he’s not holding his breath because lobby projects collide with plans to boost regional economies.

Town hall projects:

Construction has started to restore and strengthen Christchurch Town Hall, but costs have climbed to $ 152 million.

Wellington City’s town hall is expected to cost $ 90 million for seismic reinforcement, and the project could be extended to a national music center, for which $ 10 million of the $ 187 million is requested from the central government.

After its closure in 2015, the town hall of the small Taranaki community of Manaia has just been allocated $ 1 million for seismic reinforcement and renovation.

Homewood War Memorial Hall supporters in Pelorus Sound are considering a membership program to fund its future.

Stuart Ellwood’s family were surprised to discover that the layout of Foxton’s Memorial Hall could mean the destruction of a room bearing the name of the victim of the Vietnam War.


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