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Town Hall consultation: ‘Risky’ option in the mix

A Masterton Town Hall option labelled “risky” and impracticable will now go to the public for consultation after a heated council meeting yesterday.

Masterton District Council [MDC] staff had recommended that two options be included in the upcoming long-term plan consultation to determine the future of the town hall site.

The town hall was closed in 2016 after being deemed earthquake prone. The deadline for completing seismic work on the building is early 2026.

The first option council staff recommended be included for consultation was to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and retain Waiata House and Queen St premises.

This option was estimated to cost $3.35 million.

The other option, costing $38.67m, was to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings, build a new town hall, and expand Waiata House.

A third option — demolishing the town hall, building a new town hall, and refurbishing the municipal building — was recommended to be struck from consultation, but elected members fought to put the option to the community. The estimated capital cost of this option is $45.3 million.

A report to councillors said this option was “not a reasonably practicable option for the purposes of decision making and community consultation” under the Local Government Act, “because the information we have about this option is too uncertain”.

“The engineer has advised that there are known risks with demolishing the town hall and leaving the municipal building,” the report said.

Structural assessment shows the town hall is connected to the municipal and civic defence buildings in multiple locations and “any demolition of the town hall risks the structural integrity of the floor, walls, and roof of this foyer space”.

Cost escalations were also likely to be significant, considering the age and nature of construction of the era in which it was built and upgraded.

When quizzed as to why the option was not recommended to be consulted on, strategy and development manager Karen Yates said the option didn’t “stack up” to the other options, carried more risks for the council, and was not reasonably practicable to consult on.

She said if the council put the option to the community, “that nuance may well get lost” and the public “probably won’t take
into account all of those risks”.

“That’s one of the most patronising things I’ve ever heard in my life,” responded Councillor Tim Nelson, to which Mayor Gary Caffell said, “Tim, hang on a second, you’re talking to an officer in public, and that’s not a very good comment to make.”

Nelson replied that he was “very disappointed with that feedback” and that he thought it was “patronising towards our community”.

“This is a community that fought to have options,” he said.

“All I’m saying is that Karen is giving an officer’s opinion, which officers are asked to do,” Caffell replied.

Councillor Stella Lennox put forward an amendment to have the option included in consultation, which was agreed to by all elected members.

“I want to be able to listen to what the community want to say on this hot topic, and I think if we don’t give them the opportunity to speak on all options, it is an injustice,” Lennox said.

The “preferred” council option that will be put forward in consultation remains the $38.67m plan to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings, build a new town hall, and expand Waiata House.

If this option is finalised in the council’s Long-Term Plan, the project would be funded through loans and external fundraising, and roll out from 2025-2027.

By the 2028/29 year, the average urban residential property would pay an additional $302 per year in rates compared to the 2023/24 year as a result of the council delivering this project. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

1 COMMENT

  1. Why do we have elected councilors who REPRESENT THE COMMUNITY?. Wairarapa community is run by CEOS AND MANAGERS PLUS OFFICERS?. If you want to rob the community at least give them the FULL PICTURE?. The Law needs to change CEOS MANAGERS? OFFICERS ARE OUT OF CONTROL. THEY ARE NOT AN ELECTED GOVERNMENT 🙄 😒 😐.

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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