Cromwell hall approved as costs balloon to $46m

An artist's impression of the new hall. Photo: CODC
An artist's impression of the new hall. Photo: CODC
It has taken more than two decades, divided opinions and been marred by bickering, indecision and cost blowouts, but finally the Cromwell Memorial Hall project is "getting on with it".

During a public-excluded session on Wednesday, Central Otago district councillors approved what is believed to be the "most significant and ambitious capital project ever undertaken" by the council.

This comes after the Cromwell Community Board supported moving ahead with the project and sought support from the council to proceed.

The move signals the end to the ongoing saga is in sight and that Cromwell residents will finally get a new hall — but at a price.

Costs for the project have ballooned to $45.8million, up from the $31.5m budgeted for in the Central Otago District Council (CODC) 2021-31 long-term plan (LTP) — both a far cry from the $3m refurbishment plans mooted in 2009.

In May last year a council property manager warned the Cromwell Community Board delays to the project would cause costs to rise and this was reiterated to councillors this week.

Councillors noted that buil-ding costs had risen sharply in recent times and the hall was not immune to those market forces, but any further delays could jeopardise the project entirely.

Plans shared with councillors revealed a multi-use facility incorporating an auditorium, cafe, museum, cinema, meeting rooms and multiple public spaces.

Naylor Love has been confirmed as the construction partner and architectural firm Jasmax as construction project manager.

The capital cost to build the new hall will be funded through a mix of endowment land sales, external grants and debt funding, with councillors clear that they expected debt to be paid off within five years through further land sales.

While the project cost to build the hall is greater than initially budgeted for in the 2021-31 LTP, the overall cost of capital projects included in the Cromwell master plan was higher.

Councillors noted by approving an increased level of capital expenditure on the hall, the community would need to be further engaged on the Cromwell town centre redevelopment plans in the next LTP consultation.

Community board chairwoman Anna Harrison said it was "exciting" to be moving ahead.

"To be progressing a facility that will become an icon for both the community and visitors to enjoy, as well as being a key hub for the sharing of knowledge and culture through conferences and events, is very exciting," Mrs Harrison said.

The former Cromwell Memorial Hall will be officially farewelled in a ceremony to which the whole community will be invited. Once demolition is finished, the new facility will take about two years to complete.