Thornbury Hall — use it or lose it

Michael Weusten.
Michael Weusten.
Use it or lose it is the message the Oraka Community Board has given the Thornbury community about its hall.

Oraka Community Board chairman Michael Weusten said in an attempt to encourage the community to use the Thornbury Hall, it was offering free rental on hall hire for the next year.

"It’s about re-engaging the locals and making them aware of the assets, because we’re already paying the whole running costs anyway.

"If we could get locals using it three or four times a month, it would be a fantastic move from where it is."

The hall had minimal use in the past year.

It is hired on a long-term basis by Thornbury School, where it had established temporary classrooms while major upgrade work was being carried out on the school’s buildings.

The school was paying for all the hall’s outgoings while they had use of it, he said.

Thornbury School principal Kay Teviotdale said she hoped the community would start holding regular fun-based events to help with the bookings.

"I think that it’s a travesty for any community to lose their hall. Because in places like Thornbury, there’s not many places that’s like a hub for you," she said.

Having the hall available while the school campus was undergoing extensive renovations

meant minimal disruptions to both the classes, teaching curriculum and the contractor’s schedule, she said.

"All the staff have been amazing because it has certainly changed how we’ve got to do things this year."

The school held an open day for the community to see how the temporary classrooms had been established inside the hall.

The school was a frequent user of the hall and often used it for prize-giving and school production events.

Halls at Riverton or Wallacetown were the only other option which added travel and further expense for families.

She believed the Thornbury community was strong and supportive and she hoped it would band together to retain the community asset.

Mr Weusten said the board had opted to axe add-on hire charges in favour of a flat-hire fee in an attempt to encourage bookings.

"We are really hopeful that some of the local community will form a group of some sort just to have oversight of the hall and maybe come up with other ways of encouraging some new groups to use it.

"Some groups do use it once a year, but that is not enough to sustain it.

"Community assets really depend on the goodwill of volunteers."

The tiny Western Southland township once had an advocacy group, but it stopped as the population dwindled, he said.

But he believed it could be some of past volunteers were now in an older age bracket and there was not younger generation to take their place.

Mr Weusten was concerned if the hall was not used more, the township would lose it like other areas.

Investment had been made from fundraising to upgrade the kitchen to a commercial quality one suitable for catering.

Potential future refurbishing projects would depend on its viability.

The hall was in good condition because it had a regular maintenance schedule, he said.

 - By Toni McDonald