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Carterton Events Centre Viability At Risk

Carterton councillors are concerned for the viability of their events centre, should neighbouring Masterton District Council forge ahead with a 700-seater town hall replacement.

At a recent Carterton District Council [CDC], councillor Steve Cretney asked whether CDC would need to do a report on the “sustainability of the events centre moving forward if we are going to be in competition with a potential other town hall or events centre”.

The Carterton Events Centre opened in 2011 and is run by the council.

The auditorium seats just over 350 people and can fit 450 standing.

Masterton’s earthquake-prone town hall has been closed since 2016 and as a result, many events have transferred to the Carterton Events Centre.

Masterton District Council has just finished up consulting on its Long-Term Plan which includes options for the future of the hall: essentially whether to rebuild or not.

CDC chief executive Geoff Hamilton said the impact on Carterton of a major events venue in Masterton “may not be a ‘this year’ conversation, but that it was certainly on the cards for if Masterton proceeded with the town hall rebuild.

Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said the risk of a new town hall competing for business against the Carterton Events Centre was “not something we can ignore forever”.

“It will be brand-spanking new, it will be marketed to hell, and they will have to do everything they can to make it seen to be profitable and that will have an impact.

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“The question is how much of an impact will that have on us and what will we have to do in terms of policy settings and budgeting to offset or deal with that, given there is clearly no conversation between our two councils on how we can work together in providing that type of facility to Wairarapa.”

Masterton District Council previously engaged with Horwath HTL to complete a market demand analysis, exploring the probable need and financial impact that a town hall facility on the existing Masterton site would represent.

A September 2020 report from the company said a new Masterton venue may “be tempted to attract event bookings away from the existing venues in the region”.

“The new venue, Solway Park, and the Carterton Events Centre are likely to compete directly for the available business, even if that is not the basis of the business case for a new venue, because of the relatively small number of events in the region, constraints on the potential to grow the number of events significantly, and the need to at least cover operating expenses.”

It said the Carterton Events Centre and Solway Park may further discount their venue hire rates to retain business, resulting in a “race to the bottom” as the three venues attempt to win business while generating lower margins.

It said competitive pressure would be reduced by Masterton District Council entering into commercial arrangements with the other venues.

Carterton Events Centre. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

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