Waipā District Council wants to set up an independent Charitable Trust to manage the Cambridge Town Hall.
If a Trust was established, Council would retain ownership of the hall and contribute to maintenance costs – but day-to-day running and promotion of the category-two listed building would sit with a Trust.
Waipā District Council already has an independent Trust – Go Waipa – managing Te Awamutu’s Events Centre and the Cambridge Pool. That Trust was established in 2013.
A hall Trust would also be responsible for marketing the hall to increase usage and lead efforts to secure philanthropic funding for repairs and maintenance.
Deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk once managed the hall for three years and had her wedding reception there. She believes a Charitable Trust is the best way forward to bring the hall, opened in 1909, back to its former glory and ensure it is better used.
“It’s a stunning building in a brilliant location. But use has reduced over the last decade with less than a third of available days used in 2018-2019. It’s the heart of the town and it is such a shame to see a wonderful building sitting here, under-utilised and frankly, deteriorating.”
Hall hireage fees only cover between $25,000-$35,000 each year, she said. But costs to operate the hall last year were $148,000.
“The reality is there is a lot of work to do to bring it up to the standard needed so people and groups will hire it. That includes things like repairing leaks, improvements to heating and air-conditioning, acoustics, lighting and much more. It’s a long list and the reality is, given the current environment, Council is unlikely to be able to fund all the work.”
In 2018 Council set aside $3.8 million to help maintain the hall. That money might be carried over when the Long-term Plan is reviewed next year. But before any decision is made, Council wants to consider how best to manage the hall in the future.
“Council would continue to contribute towards maintenance of the building even if a Trust was put in place – it would be a great collaboration,” Stolwyk said. “But independent Trusts have much more ability than councils to access philanthropic funding and that’s going to be important in the future.”
Cambridge Community Board chair and former Waipā District Councillor Sue Milner agrees. She is strongly in favour of a Charitable Trust.
“Any work on the Town Hall is going to be expensive. That’s the reality. But I’m hoping people regard it as a very special building. It’s the centre of the town. Everytime we set up an exhibition in the Hall, we have people coming in, asking to have a look,” she said.
“The proposal for an independent Trust is really about maximising one of the town’s best assets and having a greater ability to cut through some of the bureaucracy to get things done. There’s some very good Charitable Trust models up and down the country and I think something similar will work really well for the hall.”
Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest said a similar model to Go Waipa was likely, with six to eight independent Trustees appointed for rotating three-year terms. Elected members and staff members of Council or related entities, including Community Boards, would not be eligible to be Trustees, he said.
Mylchreest said Council would not make a final decision until hearing from the community. and that consultation would begin within weeks.
A decision on whether or not to form a Charitable Trust would be made by Council before Christmas.