A "painful mistake" was acknowledged by Napier City Councillors yesterday in a fiery, emotional meeting when they agreed to a proposed rename of the Napier Conference Centre.

Since being built in 1956, the Marine Parade building has gone from the War Memorial Hall, Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, to Napier Conference Centre. There was outcry last year after council voted to remove the "War Memorial" title.

As part of the effort to restore the "mana and dignity" to the building, a council strategy and infrastructure committee yesterday was recommended to rename and brand it the "War Memorial Napier Conference Centre".

Read more: Council vote today on War Memorial name
Napier City Council to consider reinstating War Memorial in Napier Conference Centre name


However after listening to public appeals the committee agreed for a different name to be voted on at the next council meeting: the "Napier War Memorial Centre".

A large crowd of residents, veterans and RSA members gathered for the fiery meeting yesterday, in which regrets were aired, councillors spoke over each other, and chairman Keith Price thrice had to threaten loud audience members would be removed.

This amended name was quickly tabled by councillor Kirsten Wise and seconded by deputy mayor Faye White, while Councillor Tony Jeffery's attempts to move the existing recommendation were drowned out.

The only vote against the amendment was from Napier Mayor Bill Dalton. Councillor Larry Dallimore was absent.

Mrs Wise said while commercial activity was now carried out in the building, "it should not and it cannot be its primary focus".

"As a council we must listen. We must listen to our community who have been pleading with us for months now to return their war memorial," she said.

"It is our responsibility as a council to recognise this site as a war memorial first and foremost. We must listen to our community, and reflect on the original intent of the site as a community centre."

The name Napier War Memorial Centre encapsulated these elements, and was supported by both Napier and Taradale RSAs.

A majority of councillors agreed, including Mrs White who said council had "dropped the ball", and returning the name to the building "gives back the respect it deserves, it gives back its past and the reasons why it was built".

However several councillors argued the word "conference" was needed - the building's 2016 name change was partly due to marketing confusion.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton supported the reinstatement of "War Memorial", but said he had difficulties with the amendment as the council needed to advertise the building.

He was meet with jeers when he said the suggested rebranding of the centre would cost around $100,000 and "I don't think we have a right to impose that sort of cost on the ratepayers of Napier".

Earlier in the meeting the Hall's original architect Guy Natusch told councillors he could not support the name options put forward.

As the original funding required it to be for non-profit, community functions, he advocated the new name be "War Memorial Centre", with "community events and conferences" written below it on the building.

This title was echoed by Napier resident Craig Morley, ex Royal Air Force, who said the options in the council paper had not been properly consulted on with the public.

"I strongly urge council to conscience vote the name 'War Memorial Centre'. Do the right thing," he said.

If the full council meeting also votes to rename the building, a review of the building's brand would be needed.

As part of the amended recommendation, the committee also agreed to resolve the buildings' branding, including signage, formed part of the building designs and concepts, to be reported to council in June.

Cementing this date was also subject to some tussle between councillors.