Scottish Hall's future still in doubt

18:40, Oct 07 2012

The future of Invercargill's Scottish Hall remains in limbo five years after the Invercargill City Council pledged to transfer ownership to a Scottish trust.

Southland Scottish Hall Community Trust president Malcolm McKenzie said the city council had not transferred the hall's trust deed to the hall trust so ownership was in limbo.

The city council agreed to transfer ownership of the hall after a petition, signed by thousands, was presented opposing demolition.

Mr McKenzie said the trust was told by city council chief executive Richard King a change of ownership of the hall required a High Court decision.

When contacted, Mr King said the wording of the trust deed was vague and obscure and the transfer delay was needed to ensure a lasting solution was found.

The trust deed says “the owners of the trust are expected to maintain the hall forever and a day as long as practical”, he said.

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It was because of this wording the council put the issue into the hands of the Crown Law Office, which advised the council to apply for direction from the High Court, Mr King said.

After seeking a second opinion, the council had made the application to the High Court, he said.

Mr King conceded the issue had been around for an unacceptable amount of time. The council was very keen to transfer ownership and financial responsibility for the hall as quickly as it could, he said.

St Andrew's Scottish Society spokeswoman Barbara Swain said the society held its annual ball at the hall in August. The hall had been dirty, one corner was water damaged and it had been difficult getting the council to agree to allow the hall to be used, she said.

Mr King said the council was reluctant to spend too much on the hall as ownership was possibly changing. The leaking roof was replaced in September, and the hall required a major upgrade before it could be used as a community facility, he said.

The council would give a donation to the new owners to help with an upgrade, he said.

Pauline McIntosh is a SIT journalism student

The Southland Times