The sacrifices of Hawke's Bay residents could be remembered in a new memorial hall, built by the Napier City Council.

This comes as a number of residents -including the former Napier War Memorial Hall's architect - have expressed sadness that the buildings original purpose was lost in its transition into a conference centre.

The original War Memorial Hall was built by public subscription in 1956, in memory of those who lost their lives in the World War II conflict, and featured an Eternal Flame and a Roll of Honour listing the fallen soldiers' names.

It later became the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, and has recently undergone a multi-million dollar redevelopment - which combined earthquake strengthening, extensions and refurbishment work, initially scheduled for 2023.


While it now boasts the ability to host an array of functions, some residents have expressed disappointment the new building has lost its gravitas with the removal of the eternal flame, and roll of honour.

Napier mayor Bill Dalton said this was "totally understandable".

"All I can say to them is watch this space, they will be delighted with our plans which we're working on in conjunction with both the Taradale and Napier RSAs."

Among those sad about the change is the building's original architect - Hawke's Bay native and World War II veteran Guy Natusch.

"As a veteran myself, I am sad that the emphasis of a memorial has been lost in favour of a conference centre. Personally I'm sad but that's what happened," he said.

"At my age ... we have to accept that change is inevitable over the course of time, unless there is an overwhelming desire by the community to keep it as it is."

Mr Natusch served in the Royal New Zealand Navy during the war - including during the D-Day landings, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

While he said it had been agreed the building would "never be used for anything other than a memorial" he realised times had changed.

"Rather than being a memorial that's costing the ratepayer a certain amount for maintenance ... they [the council] see it as a possibility to earn money."

However Mr Natusch said he did not think people should be "unduly critical" at the changed name of the building.

"It's an evolution, and if the community believes the time has come for a change of name, that's just what happens," he said.

The council do have plans for a new memorial to house the eternal flame, and roll of honour.

Council manager visitor experiences Sally Jackson said it had not been considered appropriate to house the items in the new centre, as it was a commercial venue.

"If the memorial is still within the Conference Centre, if the entire venue is booked, which does happen, it means there is no public access to it," she said. "We feel it should be accessible to the public 24/7."

The flame was currently being "cared for" by council in a location they could not disclose, and would be housed in a new war memorial space - at this stage council had not begun looking at locations for this, although it was likely to include a site on Marine Parade.

Council was working with the Napier and Taradale RSAs, and intended to hold community consultation to determine the best location.

Taradale RSA president Peter Grant said they were waiting for the council to get back to them about the new memorial, but were hopeful a new site might be better suited for the items.

Given the former centre's dual purpose, Mr Grant said it would be good to have a designated site for the memorial items so people could access them "24/7" and really reflect on what the items represented.

"We [the RSA] are the guardians of remembrance," he said. "It's our responsibility to ensure the public have a place to reflect and remember."

Napier RSA president John Purcell was unavailable to comment.