Council accused of building neglect

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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Porirua

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Porirua City Council has been accused of a "shameful" neglect of the historic Titahi Bay Community Hall, but has responded by questioning how any restoration would be funded.

The hall, used by Porirua Little Theatre for more than 50 years, was closed in 2012 after extensive water damage was discovered. It was due to be demolished until community groups protested.

Estimates on restoring the hall have varied between $300,000 and $800,000, and supporters questioned those figures at a Draft Annual Plan hearing yesterday.

Porirua Little Theatre president Sandy Brewer said the neglect of the Whitehouse Rd hall was "shameful" and called for the council to restore it because of its architectural significance and its place in the arts community.

There is currently no provision for the hall's restoration in the draft plan.

Councillor Tim Sheppard said he was concerned any money spent on the hall could jeopardise the long-discussed possibility of a dedicated performing arts centre for Porirua.

Titahi Bay Community Hall working group spokeswoman Wendy Leary said the council had created a stalemate and the community was frustrated with the lack of transparency in the process.

The issue is usually discussed by councillors in meetings from which the public are excluded, but they have said there will be public consultation on the hall this month.

"They've been procrastinating with endless consultation when the community's wishes have been very clear since April 2012 and our position hasn't changed," Leary said.

Titahi Bay Residents' Association president Graeme Ebbett said the council had failed in its duty of care for the hall and questioned why further consultation was needed.

"[Councillors] are not considering it with an open mind. The council has prejudiced the outcome of this process by saying its preferred option is to spend no more money on this."

Local historian Bob Cater said the hall had great historical significance and it would be a missed opportunity if it was not restored.

Councillors questioned where money for restoration would come from, and whether the submitters would be happy for rates to rise to pay for it.

But those speaking said the community had already demonstrated a willingness to raise money to support the project.

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- The Dominion Post

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