Havelock North once had a village hall, which opened in 1910 on the grounds of St Luke's church in Te Mata Rd.

The hall was built by those who were involved in the "Havelock Work", which was a group of like-minded people taking part in intellectual, philosophical and cultural activities in Havelock North.

An important motive for the hall was for the village to have a venue that could accommodate dramatic and musical performances.

St Luke's church would take over the hall in 1916, and it became known as St Luke's Hall.


In 1997, the original hall was demolished to make way for a residential villa development.

Another location for social gatherings was the Havelock North Borough Council chambers in Middle Rd, which was used for Saturday night dances, a drop-in centre and by the Catholic Church until their church was built in Te Mata Rd.

After Havelock North Borough Council became part of the Hastings District Council in 1989, the building was used as a satellite centre, until being demolished in 1991.

At a "demolition party" for the council building, stories were told of the social and political happenings inside it, which highlighted the pivotal role it had played in the community of Havelock North.

Discussions during the party would lead to the formation of Havelock North Community Trust, with the purpose of establishing a venue for community activities.

The original Trust consisted of Harry Romanes (last mayor of Havelock North), Margaret Hursthouse and Colin Shanley (ex-Havelock North Borough Councillors), Jeremy Dwyer (mayor of Hastings), Jeff Whittaker (ex-mayor of Havelock North and the local MP at the time) and Peggy van Asch (a prominent fundraiser for the Havelock North Library building).

Completing this group was the chairman, solicitor Mark von Dadelszen, a past Havelock North Borough councillor – the third generation of his family to serve in this way. And in a link to history, Mark's grandparents, Reginald and Ruth Gardiner, were prominent foundation members of the Havelock Work.

Colin Shanley resigned in 1995 following the local body elections, and the trust was joined by two Hastings District Councillors, Richard Jones and Dinah Williams.


Architects Paris Magdalinos were chosen to prepare the building plans for the community centre, which were finalised in 1993.

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Hastings District Council would make the site previously containing the former Havelock North Primary School buildings available to build the community centre. The council also contributed $158,596 (2018: $268,000) from the former Havelock North Borough Council reserve funds.

The community centre would include an information and display space, two meeting rooms with capacity for 25 and 50 people, and a large area for a future theatre (when funds allowed). There would also be an extension of the library adjoining the community centre, including a specialist archival storage area.

With the plans in hand, the job of fundraising began in March 1994. Cyril Whitaker, a previous Havelock North Borough councillor, took on the job as fundraising chairman.

It would not be easy as the region suffered economically that year. A hail storm had just wreaked havoc in the region, and Tomoana Freezing Works closed that year.

Two large fairs were held in 1996 and 1998 raising over $100,000 ($151,000). Street parties also contributed to funds, as well as community fundraising events. It was truly a community effort.

Grants from the Eastern and Central Trust and the Lottery Grants Board gave the building fund a big boost. Many local businesses and trusts contributed, and there were substantial anonymous donations from individuals.

The community centre would reflect the past influence of the Havelock Work. Arts and crafts were a significant part of the Havelock Work. The Lantern was the name of a magazine published during the 1930s in Havelock North and contributed to by members of the Havelock Work.

The Lantern Gallery area in the building would be named to reflect this, and encourage the display of local arts and crafts for sale.

A spacious reception area would give the ability to cater for exhibitions and smaller musical concerts.

The small meeting room for 20 people would be named in recognition of Sir James Wattie, and the funds provided by a memorial trust in his name.

Completing the facility was a seminar room for about 50 people and the 250sq m function room which could accommodate 200 people for a meal.

The Grand Piano in the facility was purchased on very favourable terms from the Meissner family. It had belonged to Frank Meissner (Meissner Rd is named for him), who was an accomplished pianist.

Tenders were intended to be called for in 1996, but delayed until May 1997 after the plans were changed to incorporate the library's work room and staff facilities. Morgan Builders were successful in the tender.

The Hastings District Council contributed funds from their rating surplus from 1996/97 to enable the large function room to be completed, otherwise the project would not have included this area.

A guarantee was given by the council in August 1997 to cover any shortfall in the project up to $130,235 ($195,000), but this was never needed by the time the facility opened on September 12, 1998.

Despite some warning that community spirit would die after the 1989 forced amalgamation, the Hastings District Council and the Havelock North community worked together to create the now-named Havelock North Function Centre, which is still is a well-used community facility, and not just by those in Havelock North.

• I am taking pre-orders for Historic Hawke's Bay due out in late November, which is a collection of my best HB Today articles from 2016-2018, with additional photos and story material. The book has 160 pages with 26 in colour. Cheque of $59.90 to PO Box 8947, Havelock North. Free delivery on orders received by November 1, 2018.

• Michael Fowler FCA (mfhistory@gmail.com) is a chartered accountant and contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.