Departing opera house boss honoured

By Sam Hurley

Friends and colleagues gathered to farewell and honour the inaugural chairman of the Hawke's Bay Opera House John Buck last night, while also introducing the new chairman and a new CEO.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule used the night, in the Assembly Ballroom, to thank Mr Buck for seven years of service to the iconic Hawke's Bay building and organisation.

"He was an instrumental driver in making this facility happen.

"John gave two to three years of solid voluntary work, he leaves the board and this facility in a fantastic space," he said.

"It's first class, probably the proudest thing I've done as mayor of this town."

Mr Buck said the opera house meant an enormous amount to him personally, and said the journey, including the extensive upgrades to the historic venue, completed in 2007, were hugely satisfying.

"A huge amount of money for this place came from the community," Mr Buck said.

"The level of goodwill and generosity in this community, with no strings attached, is quite humbling."

Mr Buck leaves the Spanish Mission-style building as one of New Zealand's premiere performing arts, conference and events centres. He will move on to a new role as the first Hawke's Bay patron of the Cranford Hospice.

New chairman Chris O'Riley moves into the job having had a diverse professional background in business management. He aims to bring variety and energy to the venue.

"After an incredible amount of work by John it's an absolute honour to take over from him."

He said he wanted to ensure that the opera house remained the community's house, for all local people.

"We want everyone in Hawke's Bay to be proud and touched by this place."

Christine Springs was also announced as the new CEO on the evening after spending 10 years abroad working in project management.

"I want to grow and develop this incredible facility," she said.

"We want to embrace the community and host community events and world-class productions."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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