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Masterton Town Hall, Facade, And Municipal Buildings To Be Demolished

The Masterton town hall, municipal buildings and facade will be demolished, should the council’s Long-Term Plan [LTP] be adopted at the end of the month.

The Masterton Town Hall. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND/LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTING

A new town hall would be built in its place.

The current town hall in Masterton was deemed earthquake-prone in 2016.

The previous council's proposed civic centre project at the northern end of town sparked debate last triennium and resulted in protests in 2021 and 2022, one of which was dubbed "Hands Around the Hall".

But that saga drew to a close when Masterton councillors met today [Wednesday] to deliberate and vote on the future of the site.

Deputy Mayor Bex Johnson moved to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and build a new town hall on the current site, at a maximum cost of $25 million.

This would include a new multi-purpose space for performances or functions, as outlined in the preferred option, but it would not retain the municipal building facade.

The facade is technically on the municipal building but is commonly referred to as the town hall facade.

It was previously given a stay of execution in 2020 when the former council voted 6-5 to retain it.

However, retaining the facade introduces a lot of risks and complexity to the project and further investigation would be required to determine the work needed to keep the façade, adding to the project costs.

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Johnson said retaining the facade at a cost of $2m, as per the consulted option, “doesn’t make financial sense”.

Demolishing the facade would also reduce cost contingencies which would lessen the impact on ratepayers, she said.

Johnson also motioned to: retain and expand the existing Waiata House, as outlined in the council’s preferred consultation option, to accommodate Civil Defence, public meeting rooms, and a lab, at an estimated cost of $8.7m.

Her motion also directed council officers to proceed to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and start a fixed-price tender process for the build.

In favour of the motion were councillors Johnson, Craig Bowyer, Stella Lennox, David Holmes, Marama Tuuta, and Mayor Gary Caffell.

Voting against were councillors Tim Nelson, Tom Hullena, and Brent Goodwin.

Goodwin had signalled his intent to raise a motion to proceed with the demolition of the old town hall, facade, and municipal buildings, and that “we work towards a feasibility of what to do afterwards”.

Councillor Tim Nelson signalled his intent to raise a motion to “retain Waiata House and the lease on the Queen St offices and “leave the town hall and municipal buildings as they are”.

Because Johnson’s motion won a majority support, these other motions were not put to the vote.

Nelson said the project was a “nice-to-have” in the current economic climate.

“I hear often the comment: doing nothing by doing nothing,” he said.

“This isn’t true. Reducing the rates impact on our community is doing something.

“Placing a huge burden on them is doing something as well, it is placing that burden not just on the current generation but on generations in the future.”

Councillor Tom Hullena said town halls around New Zealand ran at a loss and believed millions of dollars should only be invested if the council had a business case that proved it would create a significant return for the community.

“You can bet your boots the poor in this town won’t benefit from this monument,” he said.

“Their rents will go up with their rates and they will continue to struggle.”

Caffell said he had been a “very vocal supporter of rebuilding our town hall”.

“I’ve also gone through a process where I was strongly in favour of retaining the facade,” he said.

“At one stage, I was also wanting to retain the municipal buildings.

“If there is one thing being a councillor teaches you it is you will seldom make decisions that attract unanimous support.

“My stance will always be that we need to replace our town hall.”

Of the three options consulted on by the council, a slim majority of the 722 submitters [51 per cent] supported the option to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and to not replace these buildings, and retain Waiata House and the leased Queen St office.

A total of 46 per cent supported council’s “preferred option” to demolish the town hall and municipal buildings and build a new town hall on the current site, retain the municipal building façade, and expand Waiata House.

Three per cent supported another option to demolish the town hall and build a new town hall on the site, retain and refurbish the existing municipal building including facade, and retain Waiata House.

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