Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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It’s time to make a decision

Now or never. That’s how I see the current situation regarding the possible demolition and rebuild of our current town hall.

That the demolition part of that equation will happen soon enough is practically guaranteed under the present earthquake-prone building legislation.

The rebuild is different.

Yes, it is front and centre of the council’s preferred option in their 2024-34 Long Term Plan consultation process, but whether it becomes a reality could depend very much on the number of “yays’ or “nays” forthcoming from that very process.

I say “could” rather than “will” because history shows that consultation can be a difficult beast because often the response is so low it is virtually impossible to say with any certainty that the numbers reflect the opinions of the majority of ratepayers.

Under that particular scenario, councillors have to then decide in their own minds whether the lack of response is simply due to the majority of their constituents being supportive of their thinking, not interested enough to bother expressing a view one way or the other, or resigned to the fact that council will do what they
want, no matter what they say.

Hopefully, all the hype which has surrounded the future of our town hall over the past five or six years will encourage much bigger consultation numbers on this occasion.

That and the fact that if we don’t move forward with the project this time round I think the majority of readers would agree it will be a “dead duck” and any hopes of Masterton having a new town hall will have been dashed, possibly forever.

I know that is a big statement to make, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that with all the vitriol we have gone through for so long without anything to show for it, another no-result could be the final nail in the coffin so to speak.

So why is council again consulting on the town hall? .

First, there is the matter of local government rules and regulations.

Without wanting to delve too much into them they require decisions made by the previous council to be unpicked and going back to the drawing board is the only way of doing that.

There is also the not-so-small consideration that such was the heat of the debate last time round that the audit department made it clear they would be taking a keen interest in what transpired going forward, and that means crossing every T and dotting every I.

There is a world of difference too in what our present council is proposing, to what their immediate predecessors did, both in terms of location and design and very definitely in cost.

Remember, the previous council never actually got around to deciding on a location other than it was going to be somewhere nearer the river and to the north of the CBD. Now the proposition is that it would be built on the current town hall site on land owned by the council.

The design would be a lot different, too. Rather than include a library the main focus will be on an auditorium seating 700 people with room for 1000 when standing room is also taken into account.

Cost-wise, the difference is huge. Whereas the proposal from the previous council was given the red light when the likely cost reached $70 million, the preferred option this time has what is seen as a worst-case scenario cost of $42.6 million, a figure which could be reduced quite significantly by external funding.

It is not my intention here to suggest you vote for or against a new town hall. Rather, it is to implore you to read the consultation document carefully and have your say. By giving council a decent lead, you will doing them, and yourself, a big favour.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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