Nearly 30 years after a community effort to restore the Veronica Sunbay to its former glory, the Rotary president who lead the charge is disappointed it has been allowed to fall into disrepair.

The colonnaded arcade has been a feature of Marine Parade since 1934. But by the 1980s its steel reinforcing had corroded, and it was no longer safe.

This sparked a community effort to raise enough money to demolish, and replace the structure in 1991 - estimated to have cost between $150,000 and $200,000.

A plaque on the structure commemorates this effort, and is signed by Rotary president David Sewell, who said he was dismayed to see the "sorry condition" of the structure now.


When he recently took his visiting son to see the Sunbay, he found "water leaking off the roof, running down supports showing wet mould, with the structure looking badly in need of maintenance and the plaques barely readable".

"Quite a sorry sight," he said. "Hardly the treatment the thousands of donors, individuals, firms, and businesses who gave their time, skills and money to demolish and rebuild the Sunbay would have expected."

While president of the Napier Rotary in the early 1990s, Mr Sewell spent a year leading eight fundraising projects to repair the landmark which Rotary was able to do with financial help from others, including the council, and Lotto.

These projects included an 11-night telethon, when they called 16,000 households in Napier, receiving around $70,000 in donations, and another initiative selling 70 pillars, columns, seats, and windows at $1000.

After this "huge effort and 27 years later, it is disappointing to see the Veronica Sunbay again being neglected", he said. He wanted to raise awareness about the state of the structure, and remind people about what could be achieved with Rotary as a catalyst.

Yesterday Napier Mayor Bill Dalton agreed the Sunbay was due for a "tidy-up".

"We are aware that it's looking a bit tired and we have it on the maintenance list."

He said he knew the "enormous effort" Mr Sewell had put into repairing the structure, as he was Mr Dalton's business partner at the time.

"He spent bloody near a full year working on it. It was in a complete state of disrepair and David took it on in his Rotary year, and organised for it to be completely refurbished."

A council spokeswoman said the Sunbay was in a coastal area, and this position came with a "fair amount" of wear, tear, and exposure to the environment.

"We will shortly commence some work repairing leaks and blockages so that electrical work can be undertaken," she said.

"Our regular maintenance schedule includes sprinkler servicing, gutter clean and so on and although the building hasn't been washed for a few years (we think around eight) it's now on a five-yearly exterior wash cycle."

The structure received its name in 1937, after the bell from the HMS Veronica was given to the city of Napier. This served to recognise the assistance of the ship's crew during the 1931 earthquake.

The dedication of the rebuilt memorial took place on the 60th anniversary of the earthquake on February 3, 1991. A plaque unveiled then acknowledges those who contributed to the rebuilding of the structure.