Group fronts up to save facade

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 09:20 14/02/2014
New Hub building
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
BUILDING SUPPORT: Roxy Blackheart, Tess Siggelkow, Dave White, Katie Poole and Alexandra Nel are keen to have the mosaic work saved on the former New Hub building in New Street.

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The Nelson City Council says a last-ditch bid to save a landmark mosaic facade on a central building is too late.

The old Bata Building, later used as community venue the Artery and most recently the Hub, is to be demolished next month because of its earthquake risk.

The New St property will be used as a carpark but could be used for other purposes in the long term.

Events promoter Dave White used to manage the Artery, and was highly involved with organising work on the building's facade, including making tiles and smashing mirrors for its distinctive mosaic.

Tourists, school children, community service workers as well as people with disabilities were involved in creating the exterior mosaic, entitled Eat Your Art Out. It was designed by artist Valeska Campion and cost around $30,000 and was funded with help from the Creative Communities scheme. It was unveiled in 1999.

Each part of the 20-metre high facade was made by twisting metal poles together into the desired shape, covering them with chicken wire and concrete, and then decorating the surface with tiles.

Mr White said he wanted the council to make efforts to preserve the mosaic, and keep it as an entry point to the carpark.

"It truly was a community project, it involved thousands of people, it always attracted attention."

Mr White said it took about one and a half years to compete, and he remembered making the tiles in a kiln they built inside the building, and calling for old mirrors to be donated then smashed up to create the sun above the doors.

"It was a whole lot of fun, and there's a lot of stuff in there that hasn't been touched, I hope they will recycle it."

"I don't think it should be a matter of the public to raise the funds to save the facade, the council should take a proportion from the carpark budget to save it," he said.

Artist Valeska Campion said she also wanted to see the sculpture retained and kept as an entry to the carpark.

She had created a Facebook page this week urging people to come together to save the mosaic, through fundraising and petitioning.

"I would like to see it retained as a stand-alone wall - let's face it, every carpark needs brightening up, the heart at the entrance is also wide enough to drive a car through."

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So far, the page had 170 likes.

However, council works and infrastructure committee chairman Eric Davy said no one had officially come forward to the council over the issue.

He said when it was first announced it would be demolished some people asked if it could be saved, but the council found "it was too major a job to be retained".

He said they made a resolution to allow members of the public to work with the council to save pieces of the mural if possible, as long as the salvage work did not delay the demolition or incur any extra cost to council and health and safety requirements were met.

He said it was a standard demolition contract and the demolition crew "he can remove a part of the wall if possible but at no extra cost to the council."

It was too late to do anything about saving the whole mosaic now, he said.

"It's a bit late now, we start demotion in early March, we can't go backwards now."

He said if Nelson had an earthquake and the building came down, the council would be liable for any injury caused.

Community services committee chairman Pete Rainey had been targeted to help with efforts to save the facade. He said the public needed to work out what they wanted.

"They need to be formal and specific...they need to work out what they want to do," he said.

As a supporter of the arts he said he understood emotions were running high over the demolition, but it was "a complex issue" but the council was open to "real solutions" over the facade.

The contractor is expected to start on site on March 3 - demolition is expected to be completed in 9 to 10 weeks.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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