The Far North District Council is preparing to demolish the 'lighthouse,' which once served as Kaitaia's i-Site (which subsequently moved across the road to Te Ahu), due to "serious deterioration" of the structure. It will be replaced by a new three-cubicle public toilet.
Murals painted by a local artist would be carefully removed and "redeployed" as part of Kaitaia's revitalisation project, general manager infrastructure and asset management Andy Finch said, and the toilet block would feature lighthouse-themed artwork supplied by local firm Signs of Life.
"We are planning to begin demolition in Ma,y and aim to open the new toilets in June," he added.
John Kenderdine and Pat Davis said they had fond memories of the Far North Environment Centre's time in the lighthouse, built in the 1970s as a booking office for Star Mini Tours, based across the road at what is now the Mobil service station.
It later became the i-Site, and when that moved to Te Ahu, the Far North Environment Centre (Ecocentre) asked if it could move in. The council agreed, given that the reserve status of the land it was standing on meant it could not be rented to a commercial enterprise.
"It was ideal for the Ecocentre, as a non-profit organisation, at rent of $100/week, and we moved in about 2010," John said.
Ecocentre volunteers had got stuck in, cleaning and painting the building inside and out, putting up shelves and installing a wood stove to heat it. The $9000 a year the council had been paying to heat it with electricity was beyond the Ecocentre's means, council staff suggesting a heat pump. The Ecocentre had regarded a wood stove as the better option, even though council staff maintained that it would lower the value of the building.
"We changed the outside security lights, at our own expense, when the council had a quote of over $2000 to do the job," John added.
"They cost us $80, and we saved that much a month on our power bill.
"We also worked with Theresa Reihana, in conjunction with local schools, on a mural to enhance the building. Those panels are now, we hope, going back to the schools that helped produce them."
Artist Jen Gay was engaged to create a colourful welcome mosaic for the entrance.
There were problems though, including a leaking roof and toxic mould, which were raised with the council, as the landlord. A registered builder had told the Ecocentre that he believed the work required could be done in a couple of weeks for less than $10,000.
"We heard rumours that the council had other plans for the building, but the community board denied any knowledge of that," John said.
"Eventually, when no work was done to get rid of the mould, and we were advised that we would need to vacate the building for at least six months, with no guarantee that we could reoccupy it, we began looking for other premises, which we found in Bank Street, but at normal commercial rent, three times what we had been paying for the lighthouse.
"We moved, and three years later there has been no observable work done on the building, even though we had discovered that plans had been made well before we left to turn it into an amenity toilet block for families using the adjacent playgrounds. On April 22 we received a call from the council, asking us what we wanted to do with the murals, on the building was due to be demolished. Community board chair Adele Gardner said she had informed one of our people of all this, but as this person is no longer involved with the Ecocentre, so we never got the information."
They would be sad to see the building go, John and Pat said, adding that they would be interested to know how much consultants and contractors were making "from all this."