Opera House income up before curtain came down

By Simon Hendery

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Opera House chairman Chris O'Reilly and chief executive Christine Spring addressing Hastings District Council yesterday. A financial turn-around at the facility has been curtailed due to concerns it is earthquake-prone. Photo/Duncan Brown
Opera House chairman Chris O'Reilly and chief executive Christine Spring addressing Hastings District Council yesterday. A financial turn-around at the facility has been curtailed due to concerns it is earthquake-prone. Photo/Duncan Brown

Hawke's Bay Opera House Ltd says its frustrated at seeing a "much improved" financial performance slip away as the historic venue was closed due to concerns it is earthquake-prone.

Chris O'Reilly, chairman of the Hastings District Council-owned Hawke's Bay Opera House Ltd, and the company's chief executive, Christine Spring, appeared before the council's finance and monitoring committee yesterday.

The committee was receiving the company's half-year financial report for the six months to the end of 2013.

The report showed the Opera House's income was up 45 per cent, or $146,000, a result council strategic financial advisor Bruce Allan described as "much improved" compared to the same six month period a year earlier.

Mr O'Reilly commended the work done by staff to turn around the business before it was hit by news of the earthquake vulnerabilities.

The 99-year-old theatre building was closed abruptly on March 4 when engineers identified the earthquake risk and other venues in the Opera House complex were shut last week as a further precaution.

"The second half of the [financial] year was looking outstanding with momentum building for the following year," Mr O'Reilly said.

Miss Spring said highlights of the first half of the financial year had included business development wins, specifically holding a major conference for the Federation of Maori Authorities and the board of inquiry hearings into the Ruataniwha dam.

"Doing things a bit differently, engaging with our clients a bit differently, enabled us to achieve the result we had and I'm very proud of the team for what they've achieved."

Councillor Sandra Hazlehurst congratulated Mr O'Reilly and Miss Spring on the quality of the performances the Opera House had brought to Hawke's Bay in the months before the closure.

"It's a sad moment for us but we're focusing on the future and getting back into business."

Mayor Lawrence Yule called it a "bitter sweet moment".

"I can see the difference in what you guys have done in terms of your business plan that had bolstered the business. It is particularly sad that in the middle of that coming to fruition we've had to deal with the earthquake-strengthening issues but credit where credit is due. Up until that point, what you have done has been outstanding, it's been a huge step up from where you were."

Mr Yule said last week it appeared likely earthquake strengthening of the building could cost millions of dollars.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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