Government supports Opera House restoration

Hastings District Council has welcomed the announcement today of significant support from the government for the earthquake strengthening of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House. At a visit to the Opera House this afternoon, Prime Minister Bill English announced that $4 million from the Regional Cultural and Heritage fund has been allocated towards the strengthening of the heritage one category building.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule says that the Council is hugely appreciative of the government’s support of what is an iconic project for Hastings.

“This is a meaningful contribution to the project and the people of Hastings are very grateful that the government has joined us in recognising the importance of preserving this national treasure,” he says.

The Opera House was closed in 2014 after engineers found the 12-metre side walls of the theatre could collapse during an earthquake. Parts of the Opera House fell well short of national requirements to reach at least 34 per cent of the current building code. 

An extensive public consultation was carried out last year asking residents if they were in favour of strengthening and re-opening the opera house, with more than 80 per cent of respondents in favour of bringing the building up to 70 to 75 per cent of the current New Building Standard.

Construction work is set to begin in August, with the detailed construction plan and timeline to be approved by Council in July.  This is part of a wider revitalisation project of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House precinct, which will also encompass the adjacent Plaza and the Municipal Building. 

Planning work is underway to upgrade the flooring and put a permanent roof on the Plaza, with details to be confirmed in June. 

Over the last 12 months, Council staff have also continued to have conversations with art and cultural groups about the heritage-listed Municipal Building. The range of people involved in those discussions will now broaden out to a point where further public consultation will be held. That part of the project is being coordinated by the Municipal Buildings Working Group, who will report back to Council in August with a concept. 

“This significant project will reinstate the Opera House, Plaza and Municipal Building as a precinct, creating a cultural centre for the district,” says group manager for Community Facilities and Programmes, Alison Banks, who oversees the entire facility. 

“This will have wide-ranging benefits in related tourism, business, social and cultural offerings for Hastings and Hawke’s Bay,” she says.