Residents split over Carnegie building

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 20/05/2014

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Dannevirke residents are divided on what should be done with an earthquake-prone building Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave to the town in 1908.

The Tararua District Council said in its 2014-15 Draft Annual Plan that strengthening the Carnegie Community Centre would cost about $280,000.

It has sought public opinion on whether it should spend the money on bringing the building up to code and what it could be used for to ensure the expenditure reaps returns.

It also asked whether it should explore alternative uses for the site and for suggestions on what those uses could be.

The council is hearing oral submissions on the Draft Annual Plan in Pahiatua and Dannevirke today.

Residents who lodged written submissions are split on what should be done with the building, which is used regularly by community organisations, including a toy library and a youth centre.

Vincent and Marlina Todd said in their submission if the building were strengthened it would remain "an underused old building".

"Inside is a disgrace and there must be other empty buildings around town that could be converted into something more people would feel inclined to use."

Patricia Matthews was in favour of exploring an alternative use for the site. The cost to bring the building up to code was an estimate only and the final sum could not be known.

"And who is to say that another [earthquake] will not further damage old buildings?"

On the other side of the debate, Jean McFarland said in her submission the building was well used. "Several of our iconic buildings have been condemned and we will lose the character of our town without them."

Lisa Yates said the building was probably the oldest in town and should be preserved.

She asked the council to seek funding from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust "to help return it to its former glory".

Carnegie gave the building to the town as a free library in 1908. It cost £2000 to build.

The industrialist turned philanthropist, who built Carnegie Hall in New York, provided capital for about 3000 library buildings in various English-speaking countries.

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- Manawatu Standard

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