Fresh hopes for Opera House

By Victoria White

4 comments
Maggie Barry (left), Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage, was said to be blown away during Saturday's tour of the Hawke's Bay Opera House with Tukituki MP Craig Foss, and Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule. Photo / Duncan Brown
Maggie Barry (left), Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage, was said to be blown away during Saturday's tour of the Hawke's Bay Opera House with Tukituki MP Craig Foss, and Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule. Photo / Duncan Brown

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is "optimistic" government funding will help reopen the Hawke's Bay Opera House.

Following a local meeting hosted by Tukituki MP Craig Foss and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry, the three took a tour of the Opera House.

Last week Hastings District Council agreed the building should stay after receiving more than 3000 public responses, where 80 per cent asked that the building be upgraded and reopened to the public.

As president of Local Government New Zealand Mr Yule said he had been lobbying over the past year for earthquake-strengthening of heritage buildings. After the council's decision the challenge now was funding to strengthen the building to between 70 and 75 per cent of today's building standards, as council had resolved last week.

Mr Yule said he was hoping for a co-investment fund between local and central government, partly to ease the pressure on rate-payers.

"We're going to preserve this building and its history ... it would be really good if the government could make some contribution", he said.

"We're always optimistic, various governments have been very good, they understand the pressure on our ratepayers."

Mr Yule also said with a number of heritage buildings in New Zealand needing strengthening, and with the reduction in funding from the lottery grants board it was "a competitive and dynamic funding environment".

From the tour he said Ms Barry was very supportive of the preservation of historic buildings.

"I'm very conscious that apart from some homesteads, there are very little heritage buildings in Hawke's Bay", he said.

"When I was inside [the Opera House] it reinforced that we've made the right choice."

For some time before Saturday's tour, Mr Yule had been talking with Mr Foss about the co-investment.

Mr Foss said he had been keeping abreast of developments, and was looking at where government might be able to help out although it was "very early days".

He said the tour of the Heritage 1 listed building had been a great opportunity to present it to Ms Barry in her role as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, and they had discussed what was possibly available from government.

"She could see for herself what council wanted to do, and what could be available from central government", Mr Foss said. He said it would have been a big call not to reopen the Opera House, but at the same time that had to be balanced with fairness to the ratepayer which could mean re-prioritising other commitments.

Mr Yule said the fact heritage buildings needed to be strengthened had caused council to re-prioritise, with some projects like Civic Square going "on the backburner".

He said council would strengthen the Opera House first, and then "take our time" on the Municipal Buildings. On the decision to strengthen the historic building, Mr Foss said it was "heart versus balance sheet".

"When you're in there you just know that it would never be built again, the character and feeling within there presents something very special to Hastings."

The Hawke's Bay Opera House has been closed since early 2014, after engineering investigations and peer reviews confirmed that parts of it were at risk of collapsing in a moderate to severe earthquake.

Ms Barry was unavailable for comment.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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