Design plans may ease hall demolition concerns

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RICHARD DAVISON and JACK CONROY

Soon to be released design plans for the future Clutha Community Hub may ease concerns over the coming demolition of its predecessor, project backers say.

Clutha Community Hub Charitable Trust chairman Dale Anderson said “the intention has always been to bring through as much as we can of the existing facility to the new design”.

His comments come following efforts by some Clutha residents to stop the demolition of the 58-year-old hall and preserve its memorial function.

“More information will be coming out over the next months or so as we finalise the designs,” Mr Anderson said.

“We’ve got a dedicated wing in the facility for the purposes of displaying the existing memorial.”

Balclutha couple Garth and Barbara Carter contacted Allied Press on Monday with a request to publish an ‘‘open letter to ratepayers’’ in the Clutha Leader, regarding Clutha District Council’s plans to replace the hall.

The Carters said demolishing the hall would disrespect the servicemen whom the hall memorialises, their relatives, and those who helped build it.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan has described the Carters and their allies as a ‘‘splinter group’’, whose actions could place the $15 million project and its 50% Government funding in jeopardy.

A public consultation process — led by council-backed group the Clutha Community Hub Charitable Trust in 2016 — culminated with an announcement this May that the existing hall would be replaced with a new complex, funded 50:50 by ratepayers and a $7.5 million Provincial Growth Fund grant.

Demolition of the hall is expected to begin early next year.
The Carters said they believed a majority of ratepayers favoured a less expensive refurbishment of the existing structure.

This was supported by a telephone survey by Havelock North market research firm Cinta conducted in July, Mr Carter said.

‘‘The survey shows 76% of people want to keep the current hall, which as a whole stands as a memorial to the 35 servicemen who sacrificed their lives in conflict.

‘‘Only 19% want it demolished. We can’t understand why council has gone down this path,’’ Mr Carter said.

Mr Cadogan said changing course on the project at such a late stage would be ‘‘an abomination’’.

‘‘Having such a key facility as the hall fail its earthquake standards left council in the invidious position of over $5 million required just for the strengthening work, and this is a point that has been lost to many people.”

Mr Cadogan acknowledged a variance in opinions existed, but believed most were in favour of a new facility.