The campaign to save Dannevirke's iconic Carnegie building has ended. The Friends of Carnegie have decided not to continue with their plan to renovate the building and return it to public use.
Dannevirke Community Board learned at its meeting last Monday that the campaign would not continue. Council governance manager Richard Taylor revealed the news to the board after member Terry Hynes asked what the group's progress was with its plans for the building.
Taylor said Friends of Carnegie committee members Barbara Ferguson, Ruth Ussher and Bob Dresser attended an informal meeting on Friday with Tararua District Council which had asked for an update.
"The group considered the amount of work that was involved and with delays because of the Covid lockdown it would take around six years for the project to be completed so the group has decided not to proceed further.
"It would have put significant pressure on the group to get the building up to standard."
Taylor said a lot of painstaking thought went into the group's decision not to proceed.
"The group started off with high hopes and a lot of people behind it but changes to funding and the general age of the group members were factors."
At the previous Friday's meeting Ferguson thanked members of the previous council, and council's strategy and development manager Peter Wimsett, who supported the group in its aspiration to save the Carnegie building and turn it into an art and cultural centre to the town.
"It's over 15 months since we began this project. We had such momentum and the visit of writer Mickey Smith, who has had a life-long association with Carnegie libraries, and Hilary Finn who is Gisborne/Hawke's Bay Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, started our campaign with style," Ferguson said.
"We were advised by Heritage New Zealand we had to become an incorporated society so that we could apply for funding, we submitted our reports to the council, we waited and waited for replies from engineers and funding sources. We did everything by the book."
Ferguson said the council offered to sell the Carnegie building to the group for $1.
"Just before Covid-19 lockdown we wrote to the council accepting the deal, but it went no further because of the lockdown.
"We have given this project our best shot but Covid has overtaken us. We are full of regret that we cannot go further and, using our wisdom which comes with age, we have withdrawn our offer to purchase the building."
Ferguson said the biggest barrier to proceeding was the time frame that has been imposed by the Government to fix earthquake-prone buildings.
"There is a four-year time frame and that isn't long enough for us to raise the $1 million needed to bring the building up to standard and to get the work done."
Ferguson said the group had been told that funding was available, but it would still need to raise $300,000 itself.
The amount of money required to have engineers' reports on the building was huge.
"The $20,000 for a feasibility study is just a drop in the ocean."
"We deeply regret that we couldn't get further along with this project, but lockdown stopped everything."
She said the council was regretful that the project wouldn't proceed.
"The council has been very helpful and very good to us and I'm sure would have given practical help had the project gone ahead."
Ferguson said even though the group had been working on the project for 15 months it was really only in the beginning stages."
Ferguson thanked the 700 or so people who signed the petition to save the building, the 32 people who made submissions to the council and all those who became members of the incorporated society. She thanked them all for their time and effort.
"It's important for people to know that we did everything required of us but we cannot get the job done. We had to face reality.
"I'm sorry for what may happen to Carnegie in losing our protection. I'm sorry for the future of our town as its history is diminished."
Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis yesterday said she believed every effort had been made by the Friends of Carnegie and all the options had been considered.
"Everyone has done their best to see this project through. If any community group could have succeeded this group certainly had the skills."
Collis said it was a complex issue.
"Covid-19 changed a lot of things and has also created a lot of pressure on funding."
Collis thanked the Friends of Carnegie for the work they had carried out.
In the meantime the fate of the building will revert to the resolution in May last year which stated that if there was no proposal from the community to save the building it would be demolished but the facade would be preserved.