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Facade to stay

Councillor Frazer Mailman outside Masterton Town Hall. Mailman read an amendment to change proposals for consultation on the building’s future. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM


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The Masterton Town Hall facade was saved by a narrow vote at yesterday’s Masterton District Council [MDC] meeting.

Councillors voted, six to five, in favour of an amendment raised by Frazer Mailman to demolish only the town hall auditorium, and keep the building’s historic facade, civic buildings and civil defence offices.

This went against MDC officers’ recommendation to demolish the existing buildings and facade.

About 30 members of the public attended the 12pm extraordinary meeting at Masterton District Council’s Waiata House headquarters.

They saw a passionate debate on what measures were to be included in annual plan consultation starting next month.

Mailman said he wanted to recommend demolishing only the town hall auditorium, and keep the building’s historic facade, civic buildings, and civil defence offices.

He also wanted council to explore the design, costs, and location of a new multipurpose facility for events, that may include a library.

The original recommendation sought to demolish the entire site and build a new event centre and library.

The amendment, with additional content from councillor Chris Peterson on implementing a conservation plan for a historic precinct, was carried six votes to five.

Mailman, Peterson, Tim Nelson, Bex Johnson, David Holmes, and Gary Caffell voted for the amendment.

Against the amendment were Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson, deputy mayor Graham McClymont, Tina Nixon, Sandy Ryan [who phoned in from Wellington], and Brent Gare.

Public sentiment over keeping the 1950s frontage of the centre had risen in the leadup to the meeting.

Peterson sought to encourage council to set up a plan to protect several older buildings in the square, which is bordered by Chapel St, Perry St, and Lincoln Rd.

He said the plan could include a precinct containing the civic centre, the Wairarapa Times-Age building and Donald’s woolshed on Perry St, and Chapel St’s Public Trust Office building.

The civic centre itself included the 1950s facade, offices, an auditorium and a centre for civil defence staff.

The original recommendation sought to demolish existing buildings including the and build a new multi‐purpose facility, with space for events, and a library.

An alternative solution to demolish and hold off building was taken off the table.

Council chose to revoke an earlier resolution for three earlier options for consultation with the public.

Mailman said he did not “believe we’ve had definitive discussion on the concept to build a multipurpose facility and a library”.

“The results of the survey are not conclusive and premature, especially as we have not yet determined what we want to get out of the facility and haven’t scored the design and what location is most appropriate.”

Following the meeting, Mailman said he was “particularly keen” to see what other towns had to develop further ideas.

“Then we can sit down as ask “what’s best for Masterton?”.

“I think a decision to demolish the whole building is premature.”

He had no preconceptions ahead of further study on the matter.

“I certainly enjoy the facade, it’s a great building, but it is, as councillors who expressed different viewpoints from mine say, we may look at a different shaped facility.

“But it is the best location for it?”

McClymont said he thought the vote was “delaying the inevitable”.

“I’ve been in the building trade for 36 years. I’ve been chair of that working group all the way through.

“Every project in New Zealand goes over budget, when it’s a public project.

“And the risk of building there – it’s going to take one engineer to say, “we’re not happy with that foundation underpinning it” and the cost is just going to blow out.

“I like the building, don’t get me wrong, but I can see what a liability it is.”

Audience members applauded councillors who opposed demolition.

They included vocal opponents of the option to rebuild, such as Joseph Gillard from Heritage Wairarapa, and former New Zealand first board members George and Sheila Groombridge.

Gillard said he was happy and surprised the council had voted for a reprieve and backed the possible preservation plan.

“I think it’s a good way to go and I’m surprised it went that way.

“One of the best things was the little addition of having a conservation plan., That will reveal everything that needs doing and give direction.

“From that, proper decisions can be made.”

Masterton councillors approved a recommendation to put a $2.1million provision aside in their 2020/21 budget for work on the civic centre.

The matter will be put to public consultation as part of MDC’s annual planning.





  1. Don’t forget me when it comes time for the demolition works ,Brice Contracting p/l a local company .

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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