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Trust formed to save St James

Fears iconic theatre will be left to rot

JESSICA TASMAN-JONES
Last updated 05:00 18/06/2012
St James Theatre
Fairfax NZ

ST JAMES THEATRE: In its heyday, this was a fantastic theatre - especially for music lovers.

Bob Kerridge
Fairfax NZ
SUPPORTER: SPCA director Bob Kerridge is leading the charge to save St James Theatre.

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A man who has dedicated his life to saving abandoned and injured animals is now behind a trust fighting to save a neglected Auckland icon.

SPCA director Bob Kerridge is the chairman of a trust established last week to save the historic St James Theatre.

The fate of the Queen St theatre is a point of contention for many Aucklanders and there are fears the category one building may be left to rot.

The popular venue suffered a fire in 2007 and its current owner, developer Paul Doole, has said it will cost $50 million to repair.

Kerridge said the trust would act as a legal mechanism through which funds could be raised to save and restore the theatre.

He said there have already been discussions with Doole and the council about its future.

"We have to look at what's required to become more involved and what part the city is going to play in that.

"It's a beautiful theatre, probably one of the best in country."

A Facebook page advocating for the theatre to be saved has almost 6000 fans.

Last year, Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the council needed to act on the theatre before the only solution was a wrecking ball. He said a report on the building needed to be done.

Brown's call came as part of a debate on the fate of Auckland's theatres during a council meeting last October.

There was also heated arguments over whether the council should support the development of a 600 seat waterfront theatre, for the Auckland Theatre Company for which they were asked to give $10 million towards.

A Professional Performing Arts Venue Study found a refurbished St James could meet a medium to longer-term gap for a 1400-1500 seat theatre.

The report recommended keeping a watching brief on the theatre to ensure its potential was not threatened.

The study said of most urgent priority however was a new 600-seat venue in the central city and that an Auckland Theatre Company proposal for Wynyard Quarter had the potential to meet that need.

Last month, the council heard development of the theatre, which had been set to begin next month, had been delayed as the team behind it had not collected enough funds for the $41m project.

Construction is now not expected to begin until at least March next year.

A post on the Save St James Theatre Facebook page said while it would be nice to have both theatres, the St James should be a more urgent priority.

 

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- Auckland City Harbour News

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