Country trust in for long haul

By Laurel Stowell

Wanganui's Rural Halls Trust has settled into providing a stable long-term future for the district's seven country halls.

The trust was formed in 2010 as a way for the Wanganui District Council to distance itself from hall ownership and the high cost of maintaining seldom-used but council-owned buildings.

There was an initial suggestion that the council should sell the halls to their community residents for $1 each, and retain no responsibility at all. That idea provoked a lot of unease.

In the end then-Mayor Michael Laws proposed forming the trust and rural councillor Allan Anderson seconded the motion.

The council granted the new trust $520,000 over 10 years to maintain the exterior of the halls - about half the price of meeting the higher standards for council-owned buildings.

Everyone now seemed to be happy about that decision, Rural Halls Trust chairman Andy Collins said, and the halls were maintained to a realistic standard. The trust met every six to eight weeks. It consisted of himself, three people from the Wanganui Rural Community Board and one each from the committees of each of the seven halls.

Members had about $52,000 a year to spend, and Mr Collins said that was enough to keep the halls usable at present.

The trust could also apply for money from other sources. The trust gave each hall about $1200 a year for general running costs, such as electricity. After that it was responsible for exterior maintenance and left the committees to handle interior work.

For exterior jobs members agreed needed doing they would call tenders and get them done. At the moment three of the halls needed painting - Mangamahu, Brunswick and Maxwell.

The halls varied in their state of repair and their frequency of use. Mowhanau was fairly new and used frequently. Mangamahu was large and old. It was not used much but was important for community meetings and as a rallying place in emergencies such as the 2004 floods.

The Brunswick Hall was small, old and not often used. The Okoia Hall had a rifle range nearby, and the Kai Iwi Hall has been moved to Kai Iwi School.

Two halls were not included under the trust umbrella. One was the Kaitoke Hall, because it was unused. It was sold to the New Zealand Transport Agency, which is now trying to sell it for removal. The other was the Upokongaro Hall, which was deemed to have been superseded by the building at Horrocks Park in Kaiwhaiki Rd.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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