Hamilton City Council is giving the community one final chance to have their say on the fate of Founders Theatre.
Founders Theatre has been closed since March 2016 due to safety concerns over the operation of the stage house fly system, fire and other safety hazard protection. The building, which opened in 1962, is also earthquake-prone. Past estimates for restoration have ranged from $12 million to $20m.
This is the third time the general public have been asked for feedback on the site since it closed.
General manager for venues, tourism and major events, Sean Murray, says it has been an evolving process, with the proposal from Momentum Waikato to lead development of new theatre emerging from the first round of community engagement.
The regional theatre proposal is now a reality, with the new venue due to open in late 2022 on Victoria St. The council will contribute a total of $25m. The cost of the new theatre is $77m and construction is due to start in the new year. The theatre will be owned by a trust on behalf of the community.
The community feedback process will begin on October 5 and run for four weeks. It will include open days, so people have the opportunity to ask questions about the options.
Hamiltonians will be asked whether the council should reinstate the site as a basic park or create a community park suitable for events, community activities and informal play.
Councillor Martin Gallagher said it was strange how Founders Theatre did not meet heritage criteria.
"Apparently it does not meet heritage criteria but if you talk to heritage in terms of all the dreams, emotions, political rallies, school prizegivings and graduations in that bricks and mortar then that is hugely a heritage project," Gallagher said.
"I hope we are not seeing this as some abandoned bricks and mortar. I don't think you should underestimate the ultimate final significance of whatever decision we make."
Councillor Ewan Wilson said the views of the world have changed because of the impacts of Covid-19.
"What I'm saying is for us to take a more cautious approach and not rule things out because things have changed. Before we make a decision to bowl it over, let's ensure that the replacement theatre is going to happen," Wilson said.
"We all know that the funding is uncertain in this new post-Covid era than anything else, so wouldn't it be unbelievably poor governance for us to bowl down the Founders Theatre to only discover that the other theatre isn't a go.
"I struggle to think of too many other scenarios where on one hand we support public engagement but we set as a precursor to the engagement that we are not going to fund it. Whatever other LTP ideas have we set where we ask the public to tell us their ideas but say we are not going to fund it, what kind of engagement is that?"
Councillor Kesh Naidoo-Rauf said it is only fair to listen to the current viewpoint in the community.
"I think it is quite important we don't have a pre-determined outcome, I have my own personal views but I'd like to know the public view at the moment," Naidoo Rauf said.
Councillor Mark Bunting said he was glad about the extra consultation and did not want a repeat of the Hamilton Gardens consultation earlier in the year with the Rhododendron Lawn.
Councillor Dave Macpherson said he had been hearing discussions about this project from the two previous councils and expected he will hear about it in further councils.
"Every council wants to relitigate this issue. It is the same playbook as the Municipal Pools," Macpherson said.
"I would like to be a fly on the wall in about five years' time as I believe we will still be discussing it."
Councillor Ryan Hamilton said he was not keen to throw much more money at the theatre.
"It is a little like unpicking the scab, if we are going to do this we need to do it well and healthily, because I'm sick of picking the scabs on these projects," Hamilton said.