The Hawke's Bay Opera House is undergoing a complete refurbishment and earthquake strengthening. But as a Category One historic building, its character can't be changed.

This posed a problem when an intricately tiled floor of the Hastings building had to be dug up to earthquake-strengthen the area below the tiles.

Luckily, more than 100 years after they were laid, the exact same tiles were still available.
Sourced from a factory in Portugal, Tilemax in Christchurch painstakingly replicated the pattern by hand onto mosaic sheets.

Hastings District Council wants the Opera House history to come alive and managed to locate the 88-year-old daughter of the man that laid the original floor, Tom Usherwood.

Usherwood was a specialist masoner, a skill which has since been split into other trades.

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His daughter Ngaire Kershaw said her father was a quiet man but proud of his work.

"We used to come for films in the theatre on a Saturday night and that's when he showed me all the tiling and also all the fancy work around the boxes," she said.

"I'm very proud it has been updated. I'd like one day to bring my son, two grandsons and granddaughter, to see what their grandfather did."

The Opera House complex is receiving a $20 million upgrade from Hastings District Council.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the refurbishment marked a 'new journey'.

"We have turned it into one building, to create a whole arts and culture precinct for the future generations," she said.

The work is creating other developments in the area including a 35-room, $8 million Quest Apartment Hotel, planned for an adjacent site.

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