Proof of life: Napier council releases photo of eternal flame continuing to burn
It's a burning issue in Napier – has the city's eternal flame been living up to its name?
A row over the future of the local war memorial has fuelled claims that Napier City Council has snuffed out a flame intended to honour fallen soldiers.
But the council has denied the allegations, hitting back with evidence the flame was continuing to burn, albeit away from public view.
It snapped a "proof of life" photo of the flame on Wednesday – complete with the morning's copy of The Dominion Post as authentification – and produced documentation it said proved its version of events.
* 'Disgust' at treatment of war memorial
* Napier's homeless war memorial may find a home on Marine Parade
* No decision on site for Napier's war memorial eternal flame and roll of honour
* Napier conference centre to lose its 'war memorial' status
* First glimpse of new, improved Napier Conference Centre
The council removed the flame and the city's military roll of honour from Napier's former War Memorial Conference Centre ahead of a multimillion-dollar earthquake-strengthening and renovation project last year.
When it announced the redevelopment in 2015, the council said the eternal flame and roll of honour would be housed in a new "memorial space" beside the conference centre.
But early last year it said it had instead decided to relocate the War Memorial feature to Memorial Square, at the western edge of the CBD.
The planned move – combined with a decision to strip "War Memorial" from the centre's title – sparked a public backlash because the building was built in the 1950s as the War Memorial Hall after a public fundraising campaign to raise money for its construction.
The council revisited its decision, and said last month it was considering options to place the memorial along Marine Parade, not far from its previous location.
In the meantime, there has been speculation, including some from former Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott, that the eternal flame may have been snuffed out while it was kept in storage at the council's works depot.
The council, which had previously turned down media requests to view and photograph the flame at its new location, provided a photo on Wednesday showing it burning at the depot.
Council spokeswoman Fiona Fraser said the flame had been burning constantly since it was moved to the depot.
She provided emails dating back to January last year outlining plans to connect it to a gas supply at the depot, along with a February 2016 estimate from a Napier gas fitter for $1850 to carry out the connection work.
"[The flame] is important to a large sector of the community and that's recognised by the council which has done it's very best to keep it lit," Fraser said.
She said the flame's location at the depot allowed staff to check on it every day.
While some people might be skeptical that it was burning, senior council staff had "seen it with their own eyes" at the depot, she said.