The Ōruru hall, aka the Swamp Palace, is taking a very long time to be restored to a standard that will ensure its future. The dream, however, might be over.
The community has been working for the best part of half a century to upgrade the building, without much success. Two years ago it was closed by the Far North District Council, because it was no longer safe to use.
Public meetings in 2018 and last year revealed significant public support for restoring the hall, the latest bid to do so seeking a targeted rate, to be levied by the district council, that would raise the $1 million-plus needed. Those living within a 10km radius of the hall have been invited to vote for or against paying $1.16 per rates assessment per week for perhaps 10 years, but the signs that it will attract the required 75 per cent support are not good.
The council says it mailed out 30000 'survey' forms (the Ōruru and Inland Valleys Association - OIVA- says there should have been 3316), and as of yesterday 160 had been returned. Any papers that are not returned will be recorded as votes against the proposal.
The survey closes tomorrow, although there are suggestions that it might be extended to Tuesday.
OIVA chair Kath Adams wasn't holding out much hope yesterday, despite the hall's importance to the community.
"It was an important community hub and entertainment venue for many years until July 2018, when it was closed by the FNDC for safety reasons," she said.
"This has been devastating for a wide cross-section of groups and individuals within the community.
"According to the consulting engineer it is currently deteriorating at the rate of 25 years every calendar year, so time is of the essence if it is to be saved."
The council (which has come in for strong criticism for failing to maintain the hall over many years) had "finally" allocated $196,000, two-thirds of which had been used to repile the building and complete engineering and final plans. What was left fell "way short" of what was needed to fix it properly.
"The hall has reached such a state of disrepair that nothing short of a rebuild will save her. The cost of this is going to be over $1.1 million," Adams said.
"We have tried many options to secure the money needed, the latest being applying to the government as a 'shovel-ready' project, but despite ticking nearly all the boxes, as the maximum allowed was less than half what was needed, we were turned down."
After much deliberation the association had proposed a targeted rate, which would cost each ratepayer about one cup of coffee per month. If it was successful, work would begin on the hall next year.
"If you want to save Ōruru Hall, spread the word," Adams added.
"You and your neighbours need to return your voting forms with a yes vote. If you don't return your voting paper, it will be counted as a no."