Work to do at Sir Howard Morrison performing arts centre

Friday 3, November 2017 | News |

An engineers’ report on the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre has highlighted issues relating to seismic strengthening which require temporary closure so remedial work can be done.

“A detailed seismic assessment at SHMPAC has highlighted some further issues we were unaware of so we need to close it temporarily to get remedial work done,” Rotorua Lakes Council Arts and Culture Manager Stewart Brown says.

“We know what the issues are and are optimistic there are solutions we can get started on immediately so that we can get the building operational again within a reasonable period of time. We’re hopeful it will be months as opposed to longer but won’t accept new bookings at this point until there’s certainty.

This is very different from the museum situation. “When we closed the museum there were still a lot of unknowns but that’s not the case with the performing arts centre,” Mr Brown says.

“We rely on expert advice and the best advice we have at this time gave us no option but to close for a period of time, in the interests of public safety.

“This is an important facility for our local performing arts community so it’s obviously disappointing. We never make these decisions lightly but we cannot compromise on public safety and we think the community will understand that,” he says.

“We already knew about issues with Concert Chamber walls. There are also some issues with connections and bracings in the foyer and stage areas but we know what needs to be done to fix those. Work done on the facility in previous years was compliant but methodologies have changed and we now have new building standards as a result of learnings from Christchurch.”

Upgrade of the centre has been proposed and is included in Council’s 2017/18 Annual Plan with $1m allocated this financial year to complete the business case and potentially start detailed design and construction. The business case will go to the Strategy, Policy and Finance Committee next week.

“We’ll now work with event organisers and promoters who had bookings to find alternative solutions for as many as we possibly can and we’ll be creative in coming up with options,” Mr Brown says.

An alternative venues database is being compiled and venue owners/operators can contact council’s Customer Centre on 07-3484199 to be added to that list.

“The temporary closure of the facility earlier this year was to allow us to prop Concert Chamber walls which were raised as a potential issue. That was a precautionary measure aimed at ensuring we could keep operating while we continued to do the detailed seismic assessment,” Mr Brown says.

“There is no impact on staff at this stage. There are seven staff based at the venue who are moving out of the centre today and will work from other sites for now.”

“Elected members and affected staff have been briefed. Focus now is on working with our venue clients and progressing remedial work to get the facility open again as soon as possible.”

From the Mayor

“After the closure of our museum this is a blow for our community but we can’t compromise about public safety,” Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says.

“We are becoming more confident about our process around disruption from earthquakes and our buildings. We’re no different here from other districts and need to work constructively around assessment of our infrastructure and any remediation that needs to be undertaken to ensure public safety. We are at that stage now with the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre.

“It’s been on the radar for a potential upgrade which we envisaged would happen at the same time as earthquake strengthening and if we are prepared to look at this positively, it could actually become an opportunity.

Mayor Chadwick says she is confident council staff will do their best to minimise the impact of the temporary closure on the community.

“A public facility needs to be safe so let’s take the right steps now and let’s get it right.”

Was it really necessary to close the building?

The best information Council has right now puts the building in the earthquake prone category which makes it a high risk building should there be a seismic event. The safety of the public and staff is our priority.
Regardless, we would not be able to work around the remedial work which is now required.

How many events/bookings are affected?

SHMPAC currently has 82 bookings between now and November next year. January and February are generally relatively quiet in terms of bookings at both SHMPACT and the EEC.

What will happen to those booked events and shows?

That’s something we’ll work through with organisers and promoters. We will work through all possible options. Some would be able to relocate to the Energy Events Centre.
Staff are in the process of contacting organisers and promoters who will then work out a process for communicating changes regarding their events/shows.

I’ve got a show booked at SHMPAC and haven’t been contacted yet – who can I talk to?

Contact the Council Customer Centre on 07-3484199 to leave your details. Staff will contact you as soon as possible to discuss any impact on you and any potential options that may be available.

What happens with Ticketmaster?

This will be relocated to the EEC in the interim.

Will I be reimbursed for tickets I’ve bought to a show that gets cancelled?

That’s something Ticketmaster will work through – ticket holders will be contacted and are advised to wait until then to allow Ticketmaster to put refund processes into place if/as required.

Should we be concerned about other council buildings?

No. An audit of all major public council buildings was completed some time ago. Earthquake strengthening work has already been done on the Haupapa Street library and the Fenton St iSite. The museum remains shut until decisions can be made on its future and the results of the detailed assessment of SHMPAC which has just been done has prompted this latest decision.
These buildings were all identified some time ago as being an earthquake risk under legislation introduced following the Christchurch earthquakes. Buildings deemed to be a risk require further assessment to ascertain whether they are earthquake-prone and therefore require remedial work.
Construction methodology has changed and so has legislation in terms of required standards so these have impacted on the safety rating of many buildings around the country and a number of public council-owned buildings have closed around New Zealand.

How much will it cost to fix SHMPAC?

It’s difficult to speculate at this early stage but it could be millions. That won’t become clear until we get detailed designs done for the remedial work.

How will this impact on the staff at the facility?

There are seven staff who were based at SHMPAC and they’ll be redeployed during the closure.