If the Ōruru and Inland Valleys Ratepayer Association hoped a 700-signature petition would prise open the Far North District Council's wallet, it would have been disappointed.

The Ōruru Hall, widely known as the Swamp Palace (although the cinema that gave it that name has long gone), was built in 1902 for the cable station at Cable Bay, and was later shifted upriver for use as a community hall.

It was closed for safety reasons in July, after an inspection by council staff found it had deteriorated badly.

Speaking to last week's council meeting, association deputy chair Kath Adams said in 2014 council staff had found the building was in need of $593,000 worth of deferred maintenance. Following meetings between the association, the council and Te Hiku Community Board, the council allocated $250,000 in its 2014-15 budget for 'structural reinstatement,' but the money had never materialised.


The decision to further defer the funding, she said, had been based on false information that the hall wasn't being used.

"The community feels very let down. We've had enough of being ignored," Ms Adams said. The association had been requesting information on the precise reasons for the hall's closure for three months, but had yet to receive a clear explanation.

The association was keen to assume ownership of the hall and seek external funding for upgrades, but was unable to do anything until structural repairs were carried out.

The petition called on the council to carry out urgent health and safety repairs so the hall could reopen, and to provide a timeline for the rest of the repairs.

Its plans included applying to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga for heritage status.
Cr Mate Radich, however, said the hall was in " a hell of a state," and questioned how many functions it hosted. Most people preferred to the Eastern Rugby Club rooms at Taipa, he said.

Ms Adams said the hall hosted about 30 events a year, but later revised that to 66 bookings in the six months until it was closed in July. Those bookings included dance rehearsals, concerts, private functions, committee-organised events and meetings.

Mayor John Carter responded by promising to call a public meeting to discuss the hall's future, adding that a wider discussion about the Far North's community halls was also needed.

"We have 27 public halls and some private halls around the district. We need to ask ratepayers if they are happy to keep paying for all these halls," he said.


A date for the public meeting has yet to be set.