Herman Wismeyer lives and breathes the Hawke's Bay Opera House. For him, it isn't merely a job, but a passion which saw him restart his own business to take on its redevelopment.

Hawke's Bay born and bred, Wismeyer spent 30 years in Europe before coming back to work as the principal project manager for WSP Opus on the Christchurch rebuild.

But when he heard about the Opera House project, he knew he had to move back to his roots to help.

Part of the ornamental ceiling in the original Opera House foyer. Photo / Duncan Brown.
Part of the ornamental ceiling in the original Opera House foyer. Photo / Duncan Brown.

"I am really passionate about heritage and I am really passionate about these buildings because I grew up here, I was in them."

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The Hastings CBD building was closed in 2014 due to possible earthquake risk, but public consultation in 2016 indicated the community wanted earthquake strengthening to take place. In August the following year, work began.

Now, 18 months later, Wismeyer is fully immersed in the redevelopment.

Work is underway on the stage area. Photo / Duncan Brown.
Work is underway on the stage area. Photo / Duncan Brown.

And while huge progress has been made, it hasn't come without its fair share of challenges.

On November 18, emergency services spent three hours quelling a fire, which started behind the stage area, on the ground floor of the three-storey building from a pile of old wires.

The arsonist, responsible for three fires that evening has not yet been caught. And the area, which was not going to be touched has now had to have extensive work done.

Part of the old Hutchinson's retail shop on the bottom floor of the Municipal Buildings. Photo / Duncan Brown.
Part of the old Hutchinson's retail shop on the bottom floor of the Municipal Buildings. Photo / Duncan Brown.

The "substantial fire" melted all the wiring in that area and the side of a door which closes the stage area. The fire curtain and stage curtain now have to be replaced.

"After it was demolished, we water-blasted all the walls to get most of the soot and smoke residue off and we treated it with a product from America that's been specifically designed to lock smell into a concrete wall," Wismeyer said.

Council spokeswoman Alison Banks said at this stage all works are on schedule.

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The old wall (left) and the new sheer wall in the original foyer of the Opera House. Photo / Duncan Brown
The old wall (left) and the new sheer wall in the original foyer of the Opera House. Photo / Duncan Brown

It is hoped that the Plaza will be up and running by September 2019 and the theatre by late 2019/early 2020.

The bulk of the council's millions has gone towards installing sheer walls in front of the existing unreinforced masonry brick.

The barricades surrounding the Municipal Building on Heretaunga St have now come down in preparation for the earthquake strengthening works on the Municipal Building.

Work on the south wall (closest to the Opera House Theatre) will be carried out first to ensure the Opera House Theatre can be fully utilised and accessible once work on that facility is completed.

At the same time the foundations in the laneway between the Opera House and Municipal Building are being broken down as part of preparations to pour sheer walls.

In addition, preparations to pour the foundations at the Plaza are now almost complete.

The clear goal throughout is to restore the buildings to their original state.

"It is really important with heritage buildings, that you stay honest to how they were designed," Wismeyer said. "It is taking the building back in time."