Quake risk closes opera house

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 14:08 04/03/2014
Napier Opera House

Shut down: Hawke's Bay Opera House has been closed because it is too much of a quake risk.

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The curtain has suddenly come down on Hawke's Bay Opera House with engineers now saying the building is earthquake prone.

The region's premiere theatre has been shut while testing is finalised.

Are you a ticket-holder to an opera house event and does this affect you? Email news@dompost.co.nz

Engineers are worried that the 12-metre side walls of the theatre could collapse on an audience during an earthquake.

It came as a surprise to Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule when he was given verbal advice last week.

The council spent $11.2 million structurally upgrading the complex between 2004 and 2007. A 2013 report assured that the building was safe but further work needed to be done, Mr Yule said.

Following the report, the council commissioned invasive testing of the structure and foundation of the Hastings St building.

Mr Yule said the council was acting swiftly on the new information. Wellington City Council staff were arriving in Hawke's Bay tomorrow to offer advice and share their experience in dealing with the earthquake prone Town Hall.

The theatre would be closed until mid-May. Next week's Sol3Mio concert and the graduation ceremony for Eastern Institute of Technology had been moved to Napier Municipal Theatre.

"Safety of theatre goers, staff and performers is paramount and the board was united in opting for closure," Hawke's Bay Opera House board chairman Chris O'Reilly said.

The five businesses that operate from the building will continue to operate.

There was no immediate danger to Opera Kitchen, Ticketek, Dish Catering, HB Winegrowers and Hutchinson Furnishers, Mr Yule said. Engineers were concerned about t he theatre part of the building only.

The council owns the building and the responsibility of funding any remedial work falls on the council and Hastings ratepayers.

In 2011, ratepayers were asked to put an extra $1.5 million into the building over seven years to cover increasing operating costs.

Engineers will have a final report to council by March 21.

People who have purchased tickets to up-coming events are asked to contact Ticketek to gain a refund or book at an alternative venue.

The Opera House designed by Wellington architect Henry Eli White and opened in 1915 was listed as a category 1 building with the Historic Places Trust.

The plaza, with its retractable roof remain open. The $50,000 roof was thought to be the first of its kind in 2007.

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- The Dominion Post

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