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Going … going … gone?

The Masterton town hall, municipal buildings, and facade will be demolished and a new town hall built in its place if the council’s Long-Term Plan is adopted at the end of the month.

The current town hall in Masterton was deemed earthquake-prone in 2016.

The previous council’s proposed civic centre project at the northern end of town sparked debate last triennium and resulted in protests in 2021 and 2022, one of which was dubbed “Hands Around the Hall”.

But this saga drew to a close when Masterton councillors met yesterday to deliberate and vote on the future of the site.

Deputy Mayor Bex Johnson moved to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and build a new town hall on the current site, at a maximum cost of $25 million.

This would include a new multi-purpose space for performances or functions, as outlined in the preferred option, but would not retain the municipal building facade

The facade is technically on the municipal building but is commonly referred to as the town hall facade.

It was previously given a stay of execution in 2020 when the former council voted 6-5 to retain it.

However, retaining the facade introduces complexity and a number of risks to the project and further investigation would be required to determine the work needed to keep it, adding to the project costs.

Johnson said retaining the facade at a cost of $2m, as per the consulted option, “doesn’t make financial sense”.

Demolishing the facade would also reduce cost contingencies and lessen the impact on ratepayers, she said.

Johnson also motioned to retain and expand the existing Waiata House, as outlined in the council’s preferred consultation option, to accommodate Civil Defence, public meeting rooms, and a lab, at an estimated cost of $8.7m.

Her motion also directed council officers to proceed to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings, and start a fixed-price tender process for the build.

Councillors Johnson, Craig Bowyer, Stella Lennox, David Holmes, Marama Tuuta, and Mayor Gary Caffell supported the motion.

Voting against were councillors Tim Nelson, Tom Hullena, and Brent Goodwin.

Goodwin had signalled his intent to raise a motion to proceed with the demolition of the old town hall, facade, and municipal buildings, and that “we work towards a feasibility of what to do afterwards”.

Nelson signalled his intent to raise a motion to “retain Waiata House and the lease on the Queen St offices and “leave the town hall and municipal buildings as they are”.

However, because Johnson’s motion won majority support, these other motions were not put to the vote.

Nelson said the project is a “nice-to-have” in the current economic climate.

“I hear often the comment: ‘doing nothing by doing nothing’,” he said.

“This isn’t true. Reducing the rates impact on our community is doing something.

“Placing a huge burden on them is doing something as well – it is placing that burden not just on the current generation but on generations in the future.”

Hullena said town halls around New Zealand run at a loss and that he believes millions of dollars should only be invested if the council has a business case that proves it will create a significant return for the community. “You can bet your boots the poor in this town won’t benefit from this monument,” he said.

“Their rents will go up with the rates, and they will continue to struggle.”

Caffell said he has been a “very vocal supporter of rebuilding our town hall”.

“I’ve also gone through a process where I was strongly in favour of retaining the facade,” he said.

“At one stage, I was also wanting to retain the municipal buildings.

“If there is one thing being a councillor teaches you, it is that you will seldom make decisions that attract unanimous support.

“My stance will always be that we need to replace our town hall.”

Of the three options consulted the council on, a slim majority of the 722 submitters [51 per cent] supported the option to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and to not replace these buildings, and retain Waiata House and the leased Queen St office.

A total of 46 per cent supported the council’s “preferred option” to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and build a new town hall on the current site, retain the municipal building facade, and expand Waiata House.

Three per cent supported another option to demolish the town hall and build a new town hall on the site, retain and refurbish the existing municipal building including the facade, and retain Waiata House.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air “You can bet your boots the poor in this town won’t benefit from this monument,” he said.

“Their rents will go up with the rates, and they will continue to struggle.”

Caffell said he has been a “very vocal supporter of rebuilding our town hall”.

“I’ve also gone through a process where I was strongly in favour of retaining the facade,” he said.

“At one stage, I was also wanting to retain the municipal buildings.

“If there is one thing being a councillor teaches you, it is that you will seldom make decisions that attract unanimous support.

“My stance will always be that we need to replace our town hall.”

Of the three options consulted the council on, a slim majority of the 722 submitters [51 per cent] supported the option to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and to not replace these buildings, and retain Waiata House and the leased Queen St office.

A total of 46 per cent supported the council’s “preferred option” to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and build a new town hall on the current site, retain the municipal building facade, and expand Waiata House.

Three per cent supported another option to demolish the town hall and build a new town hall on the site, retain and refurbish the existing municipal building including the facade, and retain Waiata House.

– NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

2 COMMENTS

  1. What a shame. I always thought that building was impressive. If a replacement is $25 million, wouldn’t it be cheaper to refurbish/strengthen what we have? Had I been aware of the submission process, that’s what I would have supported. Most modern buildings are dreary and dull. I much prefer the traditional to the modern.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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