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Commissioners Rule Titahi Bay's US Marines Hall Can Be Demolished

The US Marines Hall in Titahi Bay in Porirua can be demolished, independent commissioners have decided, following a comprehensive resource consent application process.

The building, in the Whitehouse Rd shops, was built as a recreation hall in 1942 by US Marines that were camped in the area. Used as a community hall and by Porirua Little Theatre post-war, it was closed and fenced off in 2012 as it was deemed structurally unsafe and unsanitary.

Demolition was considered the best approach as funding for the significant cost to repair the hall was not allowed for and would be unsustainable for the Council and ratepayers to maintain. Council voted in 2014 to demolish the building.

In 2016 and 2017 there were efforts by the community to secure funds to repair it, including seeking assistance from the NZ Defence Force, who declined. A report from consultants in December 2019 said repair of the building would cost $2.13 million, demolition and a rebuild would come to $2m, while demolition would cost approximately $62,000.

In 2020, Council submitted a resource consent application to demolish, which was put on hold in order to consult and engage with the community about a suitable way to commemorate the site.

Independent hearing chairperson Mark St Clair and hearing commissioner David McMahon met on 10 and 11 December to review the consent to demolish and to hear from submitters on the matter. In the ruling made public yesterday, the commissioners noted the consent prepared by the Council had been "the subject of a rigorous assessment of alternatives" and met the relevant standards of the District Plan.

As a result of the commissioners’ decision, a series of conditions must be met before demolition can take place. This includes finalising a community space to commemorate the hall which when surveyed, the community signalled should be something significant and something that they can interact with.

Porirua City Council Chief Executive, Wendy Walker, said while it’s been a long journey, the process has given thorough and comprehensive consideration to the future of the hall.

"We know that the hall holds a special place in some of our communities’ hearts, but we’ve exhausted any feasible options for the future use of the hall," she said.

"Our focus now is how we commemorate the building by finalising the development of an area that the community can take pride in. The community will hear more about this in the coming weeks."

Porirua Mayor Anita Baker said it was a relief that the 2014 decision by Council has now resulted in an outcome for the community.

"This building has stood there, unused, for coming up 10 years, so at least now we can get on and continue to work with the community on what to with this space," she said.

"We want something to recognise the Marines history but also the fond memories members that our community have of the hall - this would be appropriate and a good result."

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