OPINION: The Trafalgar Centre's shaky future had been flagged, but its immediate closure yesterday is still a shock that leaves a giant hole in the city's ability to host events.
No final decision has yet been made on the demolition of Nelson's main indoor venue.
But given the inevitably huge costs involved in strengthening the centre to the required standards, knocking the building over has to be the Nelson City Council's most likely decision early next year.
The council had little option but to take immediate action after receiving legal and engineering advice that there is a high risk of lives being lost if the centre was in use during a moderate earthquake. With the lessons from the Christchurch quakes still fresh, no council can afford to take chances, even small ones, with facilities widely used by the public that have substandard quake standards.
The big issue with the Trafalgar Centre site is its vulnerability to liquefaction - the process that turns soil to mush during an earthquake - with the potential to undermine large structures.
As has also been seen in Christchurch, there is not a quick, easy or sometimes even a possible fix. Several swimming pools and sports facilities, including the home of Canterbury rugby at Jade Stadium, had to be written off.
Questions should be asked over why the land issues were not picked up when the centre was extended in 2009 as part of a $7 million upgrade, but in fairness liquefaction was on hardly anyone's radar before Christchurch.
The more immediate questions that flow from the Trafalgar Centre's removal - either temporary or permanent - are far-reaching.
The list of bookings for the centre that now have to be transferred includes all the Giants basketball team's home games, a Tactix netball game, Stage Challenge and the Fight For Victory boxing night, to name just a few.
Following this decision, there's no doubt that the supporters of the failed performing arts centre will find their voice again. Last year Nelson accountant and voice of the Nelson Millennium Centre Trust, Bronwyn Monopoli, asked the city council to retain provision for a multi-function facility. She said Wakatu Square in central Nelson would be the obvious place to build it. This could well be back on the agenda once a final decision with the Trafalgar Centre has been made.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but many have argued that when Saxton Stadium was built in 2009, it should have had seating. That helped keep the cost down and backers also reasoned it was intended for participants, not spectators.
Temporary seating will now have to be installed for the Giants games.
The decision to close Trafalgar was right, but will be a costly blow in terms of trying to retain and attract major events to the region.
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