Heart surgery vs transplant for Hutt halls

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2014
Jenny Sands
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ Fairfax NZ

OUR HALL: Jenny Sands stands with supporters seeking the retention of two heritage halls in Lower Hutt.

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A group of Lower Hutt residents are planning to fight moves to demolish two heritage halls to make way for a convention centre.

The Heart of the Hutt is proposing a different approach, which would have Lower Hutt's Town Hall and Horticultural Hall retained and the new convention centre built nearby.

Laings Rd would become car-free and the Civic precinct linked with extensive landscaping.

"We are saying stop and let's have a proper conversation," Heart of the Hutt spokeswoman Jenny Sands said.

"It's a master plan to try and integrate the area, and it doesn't cost the earth."

In November, the Hutt City Council voted to knock down the earthquake-prone town hall and horticultural hall, which are part of the Lower Hutt Civic Centre, a registered historic area.

The council wants to build a $10.5 million conference centre in place of the halls.

An economic impact report said the proposed centre could bring in between $55m and $75m over the next 20 years.

But Charles Sands, a retired architect, said there had not been enough public consultation. He has drawn up alternative plans for the precinct, with a new conference centre near the Dowse Art Museum, for about $7m, and a Maori cultural centre.

A further $2m to $3m could go towards strengthening the Town Hall, while the Horticultural Hall would be used as studio space, for indoor markets, and sport events. A section of Laings Rd would become car-free, while extensive landscaping would link other elements of the historic area.

Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace said a working group spent two years working on the conference centre proposal.

"We believe they have come up with the best possible option, and the council has agreed to it."

Mr Wallace said he would be happy to meet with the group and discuss their proposal.

"I'll be interested to see what they have come up with."

A public meeting is planned for February 4, from 7pm in the Little Theatre, where the group's ideas will be presented.

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- The Dominion Post

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