Plans for new hall questioned

Coronation Hall in Bannockburn likely to be demolished because of its earthquake risk. Photo by...
Coronation Hall in Bannockburn likely to be demolished because of its earthquake risk. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
Proposed plans for a new Bannockburn Hall have been questioned by the community and the Historic Places Trust, prompting the Cromwell Community Board to call for more public consultation.

At a meeting yesterday, the Cromwell Community Board was told that proposed plans for a new community hall in Bannockburn had the support of the community following the Bannockburn Community Centre Management Committee Incorporated (BCCMCI) annual meeting.

However, a petition was presented to show that there were a significant number in the community who would prefer a different design option.

BCCMCI subcommittee member Sue McNamara said there was widespread discussion on the issue at the meeting and the proposed plans were available for the community to inspect.

Subcommittee member Jim Walton said: "The current plan to build the hall as a replica reflects the heritage value of the hall as requested during community consultation."

He said there was understanding that any change to the plans would slow the project and escalate the costs and "the Bannockburn community want a hall and they want it now".

Robyn and Henry Fluska circulated a petition to 183 houses in the Bannockburn community and 134 were returned in support of a redesigned hall that, while retaining some heritage elements such as the front facade, would be much more energy efficient and therefore cheaper to run.

Mr Fluska said: "The original building is not energy efficient and now we have the chance to rebuild it so we should do it right and bring it into the 21st century."

Mrs Fluska estimated a third of the Bannockburn community had signed the petition.

Community board member Helen Hucklebridge said: "Even if it slows the process down, the people who have signed the petition have a democratic right to be heard."

Mr Walton said if a new appearance emerged, then the hall would no longer be the "iconic country hall" and it would not fit in with the aesthetic of the church or provide any heritage value.

Before the community board meeting, New Zealand Historic Places Trust Central Otago branch chairman David White approached the Otago Daily Times with concerns about the process that determined the Bannockburn Hall was an earthquake risk.

He said it had been confirmed to him that the decision to demolish the hall was based entirely on the engineer's report and he had been told by Cromwell community board chairman, Neil Gillespie, that the report only looked at the construction of the building and did not take into account any heritage values. He said the community board had failed to get the engineer's report peer reviewed.

At the board meeting, board member Terry Emmitt also questioned the report and whether Asset Management, the company which prepared the report, was capable of understanding the issues surrounding the hall.

Mr White, concerned about funding, commissioned reports from conservation architect Jackie Gillies, historic building conservation director Daniel Pollard and heritage stonemason Keith Hinds to determine other possibilities for the hall, with the thought that it might be cheaper to strengthen the present building.

The three reports all say that another evaluation of the hall should be sought by a heritage engineer.

Mr Gillespie said the scope of the project had changed significantly and "I don't know that cost is the issue, it is about the design of the hall".

Recommendations adopted by the board include for a special consultative process to be implemented or the project to be included in the 2012 long-term plan, which Mr Gillespie said would lose the project six months, but make funding easier.

Also, that the BCCMCI engage the community to confirm preferences for design options.

Mr Gillespie said this would give the board staff time "to look at the financial implications long term and review the engineering process" and would give the community time to talk and decide on options.

The 99-year-old hall was closed in March this year and earmarked for demolition because the report by Asset Management showed it to be at high risk of falling down in a moderate earthquake.

- sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz

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