District to direct future of project

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Published: 09 Sep 2022

Timaru District residents will be encouraged to have their say on the future of the Timaru Theatre Royal and Heritage Centre project.

Timaru District Council unanimously agreed to take three costed options to the community for their feedback following a detailed briefing from the project team, contractors and specialist consultants.

With an indicated increase in costs, due to the complexity of the project as well as local and global building industry pressures, it was decided to take the three strongest options back to the community for their feedback before any final decisions were made.

Formal consultation information will be prepared for sign-off and public release at an upcoming council meeting, with public consultation likely to run through October and November.

Three options that will be consulted on include two using existing parts of the theatre and building the heritage centre, and one option of only restoring the theatre.

The approximate overall project budget numbers for each option are made up of costs to date, internal council costs, contingency amounts and estimated construction costs.

  • A: Building the heritage centre and restoration of the theatre, retaining and renovating the stage house, and building a new backstage building, including improving access and connections between the buildings. The estimated costs council has received range from $53-57m. This option includes budgeted government funding of $11.6m.
  • B: Building the heritage centre and restoration of the theatre, retaining and renovating the stage house and backstage building. The estimated costs council has received range from $51-56m. This option includes budgeted government funding of $11.6m
  • C: Restoring only the theatre. Setting aside adjacent land as a green field site for possible heritage centre development at a later date. The estimated costs council has received range from $38-40m. This option does not have any budgeted government funding, and it is unclear if government funding will be received for this option and it may have to be fully funded by council.

Designs, cost and rates impacts, effects on approved Government funding and an overview of regulatory risks will be provided for these options, to enable informed community debate.

The earlier option to remove and rebuild both the Theatre stage house and backstage buildings has been discounted by council on a feasibility and cost basis.

This decision was based on professional advice that the fabric of the Theatre building is in good condition, and that as a heritage listed building it would be highly unlikely to gain resource consent for demolition.

Timaru District Council Acting Group Manager Commercial and Strategy Jason Rivett said that while some Council and stakeholder feedback supported this option, the cost and regulatory complexity required for this option outweighed the relatively minor gains in space and facilities it would offer over other viable options outlined above.

“Although there was some support for a complete rebuild of the stagehouse, through our detailed design process it compared unfavourably to the other options from a cost-benefit point of view and carried an extremely high risk of significant project delays,” they said.

“When the designs are released as part of the consultation, people will see we’ve worked hard with our designers to achieve most of what our stakeholders have requested, but in a streamlined and efficient way.”

Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen said that the whole council was keen to bring the community along on this journey and ensure the district got the best outcome.

“This is an important piece of cultural infrastructure for our whole district and it’s one that will be enjoyed by many generations in the future, but like many projects of this size global building conditions mean that the costs have escalated.

“The council feels that in light of this, it’s time that we go back to the community to ensure their voices are heard before we commit more resources to the project.

“We’re just putting together a picture of what each option will look like, the costs and funding implications for each and whether we would still receive central government funding for all of the alternative options being considered.

“While the numbers that will be presented are a significant investment in our district, it’s important to note that in line with other major infrastructure it will be paid back over a long period of time, the whole amount doesn’t land on current ratepayers.

“We are keen to see this project progress, but this is a significant, long term decision for our community, so it’s vitally important when we launch the consultation that as many of you as possible take the opportunity to learn about each decision and tell us what you think.”

Last updated: 09 Sep 2022