Future of our hall

Last updated 05:00 27/07/2013

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Renwick township is expanding, the school roll is growing and the community hall that serves them both is no longer meeting people's needs.

A call for its revamp was made last year when Renwick citizens were surveyed about the Renwick Community Memorial Hall's (RCMH) future.

A renovations time frame is yet to be set, but a five-stage development plan has been drawn to raise the hall's standards to a level the community can be proud of.

A proposed $1.2 million to $1.5m budget for the planned refurbishments will push fundraising activities beyond the traditional sausage sizzles, RCMH chairman Murray Newman says.

He has fond memories, though, of a blind-beer tasting night that raised money for the hall's original construction.

The 12-member hall committee he leads is elected every second year and represents four groups: the Renwick community, the Returned Services Association, the Renwick School and the Marlborough District Council.

The 31-year-old hall replaced an earlier one owned by the RSA. The RSA then donated the land to the neighbouring school and the community raised money to pay for a replacement.

It was always to be a facility for the school, a memorial for fallen soldiers, a meeting place for returned soldiers, and a venue community groups could hire for sports games, weddings and other social functions.

"And the Civil Defence would use it as a place to go if there was an emergency."

The first of the five development plans includes a new ablution block, new insulation, and improved lighting and heating.

The old hall's heating was reinstalled in the 1982 hall and, at today's electricity rates, cost $22 for every 15 minutes' use, Murray says.

Other improvements in the planned four-stage upgrade include secure storage space for regular sporting groups, a courtyard, a new main entranceway, office spaces, disabled ablution facilities and a mezzanine floor for spectators.

The hall's original design was fantastic, Murray says, and from the street it still looks like a modern building.

"By the time we do these modifications, it will look stunning."

Grants will be sought to pay for the refurbishment and the NZ Army Engineers Regiment is willing to do some of the work. There are the hall's RSA links, Murray says, and Renwick School has educated many children from Base Woodbourne.

"And we would like to speak to anyone in the community who would like to come on board and help us."

Asked if a memorial hall spruce-up might work against the Giesen Sports Centre around the corner, he says the two facilities have quite different uses.

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"We should be able to complement each other, we are two totally different venues."

When then-Prime Minister Rob Muldoon officially opened the memorial hall on April 17, 1982, a constitution was written by the Department of Education and the Marlborough County Council. Neither of those bodies still exist and previous committees have found it hard to juggle the old constitution with contemporary hall users' needs.

A new constitution is being written but they will follow the hall's founding principles, Murray says.

"This hall is and must remain an asset for the Renwick community."

It is a memorial to fallen soldiers and a meeting place for those who returned. The school needs a permanent assembly hall and the wider community needs an updated facility for sports and social gatherings.

- The Marlborough Express

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