With the future of Masterton Town Hall up for debate, a ‘save the town hall’ campaign is in its early stages.
Former Masterton deputy mayor Roddy McKenzie is looking to gain public support to launch the campaign.
Mr McKenzie said he was “very passionate” about keeping the town hall, especially the facade.
Former Masterton mayor Bob Francis also shares a “pretty strong” view on retaining the town hall.
The council’s Long Term Plan proposes to spend up to $15.5m on a performing arts and events centre to replace the town hall, while simply demolishing the town hall would cost $850,000.
The third option in the LTP is earthquake strengthening, estimated to cost $12-$15m.
The building was closed in June 2016 after being given an earthquake rating below the required standard.
Mr McKenzie said he had talked with many locals who were on board with his campaign.
“I haven’t found many that say ‘knock it down’, but there are a few,” he said.
He is looking at hosting a public meeting to get a fuller picture of the town’s views.
Then he hopes to circulate a petition to put to the council.
“I’d like to hear what the young ones think, and I’m interested in what councillors want too.”
He did not want to be “bulldozing” forward with plans without hearing from the community.
“A wise man changes his mind, fools don’t,” Mr McKenzie said.
Mr Francis said the “retention of the town hall is critical”.
“My information in recent times is the earthquake improvements are not as significant as first thought,” he said.
While he admitted there were different views on the cost of improvements, the council had asked for additional expert opinions.
“And maybe the second opinion emerging would indicate that retention is a good option.”
Mr Francis said now that the council owned Waiata House next door, there were alternative uses for the office spaces in the town hall.
“There’s no question in my mind that it’s an iconic building, especially to this district and region.”
However, Masterton did need a town hall and a building for functions, he said.
“I certainly encourage the council to keep pursuing the options and retaining it.”
In response to Mr McKenzie’s campaign plans, Mr Francis does not think that it is necessary.
“I don’t think there will be a need to. I think through the Long Term Plan process the council will accept the need to retain it and create something quite special.
“I’d encourage Roddy to get the community to put forward submissions.”
He said he has fond memories of working out of the town hall as mayor.
Mayor Lyn Patterson said the future of the town hall had sparked a lot of ideas and discussion in the community.
When asked by the Times-Age about the proposal to create a boutique hotel in the hall, she said: “Nothing is on and nothing is off the table.
“We are having lots of discussions about lots of different options with lots of different people.”
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