Council backs Meteor Theatre costsSave
Hamilton City Council last week agreed that the council would underwrite unexpected costs of $26,292 for earthquake strengthening Meteor Theatre.
The Meteor has been undergoing the work since December last year, and is scheduled to reopen on May 18.
The first play in the rejuvenated premises - One Hill of a Fight, about the historic removal of the hill that used to stand over the current location of Garden Place - will also open the next day, on May 19.
Previous financial aid to help get the theatre up to standard included $368,000 from the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, $150,000 from Hamilton City Council, a $30,000 Grassroots Trust grant, and $37,500 from local philanthropist Nancy Caiger of Mesh Sculpture Hamilton, as well as sizeable fundraising efforts.
However, discovery of asbestos in three places in the building, an engineering peer review requesting further structural changes and unforeseen ground conditions leading to additional foundation work meant the One Victoria Trust needed more funds to get the theatre project over the line.
Hamilton City Council's agreement to underwriting the additional costs is expected to have ensured the completion of the work on the Meteor Theatre, with many sitting members stating passionate support.
"I want be a part of a council that is prepared and absolutely open to listening to the community when they need us," Cr Angela O'Leary said.
"While we have some tough decisions to make in the future 10-year budget, it isn't material when this year, certainly, we're reporting to operate a $37 million operating surplus."
Ms O'Leary said she thought the One Victoria Trust was doing a good job at revitalising the theatre and its operations, as well as drumming up public support for the earthquake strengthening and achieving significant patronage in the thousands.
"I have always believed that the [arts] community in this space does it much, much better than us [Council]," she said.
"We're exceptional audience members, but we're not exceptional at running a theatre."
On the other hand, Mayor Andrew King disagreed with the request to underwrite additional costs on the theatre, pointing out that the deed between the council and the trust entailed no more money would be sought by the latter.
Cr Leo Tooman also voted against the funding. "I really would hate to be a part of a council that says, 'It's only $26,000 in the grand scheme of things'," Cr Mark Bunting said. He agreed on the allocation of funds in the end in the belief that Council was "under-serving" the arts community.
Cr Garry Mallett also supported the extra funding.
"I do acknowledge the outstanding work that One Victoria Trust has done, so there's no effort at all to undercut their efforts," said Mr Mallett. "I think it's an outstanding example of what a well-run, well-governed community trust can do when it takes something over from the city council which it shouldn't have been dealing with in the first place.
"Put a little bit of political spin on that at the end."
Dr Dave MacPherson said Cr Mallet was "quite right to a certain point. But I know that it isn't the private sector that's doing that - it's actually the community sector," Mr MacPherson added.
"So just putting a little political plug in there myself, Garry. I'm quite happy to give the community rights to do that, but I don't think you would have got quite the same deal quite out of the private sector somehow.
"But, more seriously, I think this really shows us the way forward in community partnership projects when we have facilities that are bit tired, that we're not experts at operating, or running, and I think we can learn a lot from this, a lot of positive things, and congratulations to the One Victoria Trust for showing us the way in a sense."