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Town Hall back in the spotlight

After many years of debate and protest, planning for Masterton’s civic centre is entering its final stages, with two options on the table.

Masterton District Council [MDC] agreed unanimously at its meeting on Wednesday to consult with the community on the two defined options after final costings and other work are done.

Masterton mayor Gary Caffell said he is “absolutely delighted” with the decision, which will provide the community with certainty.

“We have been battling this for the past five or six years, and it has created a lot of angst for the community and for council,” he said.

“Now we are finally going out to consult on two options, and it will be one or the other.

“It’s a momentous decision. We have finally got to the point where we have unpicked the decisions made in the past.”

Masterton’s town hall was deemed earthquake-prone in 2016, but the development of a new civic centre has sparked protests and heated debate in the community.

Of the two options suggested, the first and lowest cost scenario is to do the minimum required and close the civic facility project.

With this option, decisions would still need to be made about the library, archives, customer services, and existing town hall and municipal buildings – noting the legal requirement to address earthquake-prone issues. The second option, and one that aligned with recent community feedback, is to refurbish and upgrade the existing library [including the archives and information hub], demolish the existing town hall, and build a new performance space on the town hall site. This option would include refurbishing the municipal and civil defence buildings, with their end use to be confirmed.

More work needs to be done on the requirements and scope of the project, which will determine affordability, the meeting heard.

Costings will be worked through ahead of next year’s long-term planning [LTP] process. The preferred options will then be analysed and consulted on as part of the LTP.

“To meet the legal requirements for LTP consultation … council needs to include analysis of a preferred option and reasonably practicable alternatives in the LTP Consultation Document,” a report to MDC said.

MDC also agreed to set up a project advisory group to provide input, advice and support for the project.

The group will consist of councillor Bex Johnson [chair], councillors Tim Nelson and Stella Lennox, with David Borman and Toby Mills as community subject matter experts, and iwi representatives on the group are yet to be confirmed.

Now the decision on the two options has been made, more work will be done so the community can be provided with more information ahead of public consultation.

Over 170 people provided feedback on the civic centre project as part of this year’s annual plan process. Feedback received indicated the community agreed the civic facility scoped in the 2021–31 LTP was no longer affordable.

The preference indicated people wanted MDC to explore a facility with a reduced scope on the existing town hall site and an upgrade of the existing library in its current location. –NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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