Plans are afoot for an 850-seat lyric theatre at Whangārei's Forum North with the group behind the idea wanting public feedback on what they'd like to see on the site.
On Saturday about 60 leaders and key members of the regional performing arts community went to the first stakeholder consultation meeting for a new 850-
seat theatre project on the Forum North Site.
The event was hosted by Creative Northland on behalf of the Forum North Trust 2013 (FNT13) which is proposing that a new performance theatre be built to form part of a performing arts precinct at Forum North.
No funding or costs have been determined for the project, and it would need approval from Whangārei District Council if it were to proceed, but the trust has got top NZ theatre designers Shand Shelton Architects to produce a concept design, which was shown publicly for the first time on Saturday.
The trust is made up of Calvin Green, Ros Martin, Ian Pritchard, Kawiti Waetford, Ian Reeves, Cherry Hermon, Andrea Ross and Grant Stevens.
Waetford said as a performer he was right behind the plan, ''for what I'm trained in and all those other art forms that often bypass Whangārei (because of the lack of a large theatre).
Under the plan, the existing 350-seat Capitaine Bougainville theatre would be retained, along with the Exhibition Hall and Cafler Suite, with the new, larger theatre to be built on the Forum North footprint towards the carpark.
Trust co-chair Ros Martin said the performing arts community had been wanting a larger theatre at Forum North for 45 years, and it may now finally become a reality.
If approved, the trust would have to wait for the council to vacate the facility and move into a planned new civic centre before any physical work could start.
NZ Opera has already offered its support for the proposal and NZ Symphony Orchestra national programming manager, Craig Thorne was at the presentation.
Thorne said the entire organisation of NZSO was fully in support of the proposal and that regional planning was now more a part of the NZSO sustainable future – offering communities that had appropriate facilities three-day residencies – not just for concerts, but community workshops, masterclasses.
"It's all about the community – that is the key," Thorne said.
"Turning it away from a venue, and into a destination – a place where people want to go to because there's all sort of things happening…. a place where people go and love and feel connected to and feel ownership of it."
The presentation was lead by Roger Shand and Phil Conroy of Shand Shelton Architects – one of Australasia's leading live performing arts venue specialists. The trust commissioned Shand Shelton after a sizeable public donation.
The proposed theatre has kauri-cone inspired aesthetic as well as the flexibility of function throughout.
Shand said what was on offer is far more than a simple space, but a "truly best in the country flexible and adaptable venue that will be a vibrant, rich integral part of its community".
He said if it comes to fruition, and at up to seven storeys high, it could be the centrepiece of an arts and cultural centre.
The stage house would be more than double the size of the stage house of the Capitaine Bougainville theatre and would have state of the art equipment and soundproofing.
Ian Shaw, former producer of Opera North and Whangarei Theatre Company said: "This looks like it's taken a really comprehensive approach, and that's exactly what it needs."
The FNT13 consultation process runs until a July 7 presentation of the proposal to the WDC, which has tagged $10.5M in its Long Term Plan for a new theatre.
Martin said any additional costs were to be raised via a range of sources, including community donation.
For more information go to: https://forumnorthtrust.org.nz/