FAQs – Pātai putuputu

The detailed seismic assessment of the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre put 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.

The Centre is scheduled to reopen in 2021.

The total project budget is $22.5 million and is now fully funded. Council has committed $11.5 million towards the seismic strengthening of the Centre, with the balance of $11 million secured from external funding partners.

There were seven staff based at the Sir Howard Morrison Centre who have been redeployed to the Energy Events Centre during the closure.

○  Strengthen Rotorua’s rich and diverse performing arts by providing a venue that can showcase all forms of performance, create vibrancy and optimise use of the Centre
○  Strengthen the building for earthquake stability, providing safe access for our performers, audiences and staff
○  Create a fit-for-purpose venue that encourages wide use and enables the presentation of high quality performing arts for Rotorua locals and visitors

○  Enriched creative experiences for our performers and audiences
○  Increased use of the facility by performing arts groups
○  Quality performance spaces that enable a diverse mix of shows
○  Affordable performance spaces for local organisations and smaller touring companies
○  Provide the Bay of Plenty with a venue capable of attracting and hosting larger commercial shows that the region currently misses out on
○  A variety of entertainment options for locals and visitors
○  Reflect Rotorua’s unique identity through rich arts, diverse performance and Māori culture
○  Support Vision 2030 – strong culture, easy lifestyle and diverse opportunities

No. An audit of all major public council buildings was completed some time ago. Earthquake strengthening work has already been completed on Te Aka Mauri – Rotorua Library on Haupapa Street and the iSite on Fenton Street. Rotorua Museum will remain closed until strengthening and restoration is complete.


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, which has impacted on the safety rating of many buildings around the country. As a result, a number of public Council-owned buildings have closed around New Zealand.

Accessibility is a key consideration for both access to the building, and accessibility throughout the building. There are significant access improvements being made to the toilets, seating options, front stage access and the mezzanine.

The architects are still working on the external layout and flow but, for security reasons, the existing bus drop off to the door will not be retained. A vehicle drop off for those with limited mobility will be located as close as possible to the entrance.

Due to the complexity of the project (heritage building, geothermal location and specialty performing arts requirements) project management specialists, AECOM, have been contracted. Their task is to keep the project on time and budget, whilst still delivering the required quality and functionality for our community.

Prior to closure, usage of the Centre had been declining, and it was starting to feel tired and dated. When the name was changed from Rotorua Convention Centre to The Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre in 2014, there was no corresponding investment to ensure that the facilities and services could actually deliver the requirements for performing arts. When the Centre had to close for seismic strengthening in November 2017 the opportunity was taken to make the necessary upgrades to ensure the facility will be a thriving performing arts centre for our community for many years to come.

Sir Howard Morrison is widely regarded as one of Aotearoa’s great performers, and he was a strong advocate for youth in the arts. Of Ngāti Whakaue descent, his name is synonymous with the arts in Rotorua. To learn more about Sir Howard click here

We are looking at a range of new ways to operate the centre ensuring our community can access the facility for their shows.

  • Some of the new infrastructure will reduce the amount of set up time required, helping to keep costs down.
  • An audience development strategy is being developed to ensure that we are programming the types of shows that our community want to see, making the venue attractive to commercial touring shows, and balancing shows with business events to generate revenue that will support the operational costs of the Centre.
  • A contestable performing arts fund and community rates are both being considered to help make the centre affordable for local performances.

Civic Theatre FAQs

When reviewing the operation of the centre prior to closure, it became clear that Rotorua, and the wider Bay of Plenty, had missed out on many shows because the theatre was not big enough to make these shows commercially viable for the touring companies.

The original theatre was 1,000 seats, and space for most of the additional seats will be achieved by removing the wall at the back of the circle where the floor raking still exists. The sound desk, which was housed here, will be relocated downstairs.

Through detailed modelling, the architects have been very careful to ensure that there will be good sight lines from all the new seating locations.

It is a compliance requirement that all seats should be accessible by someone getting past a patron who is already seated. While a centre aisle was considered, this would mean losing the best seats in the house, and ensuring good sightlines from the outside seats is also challenging.

Yes – new fire egress from the circle is being incorporated into the new design, and the mezzanine space is also being extended to accommodate larger numbers of people.

The main sound and tech booth will be relocated downstairs to the back of the stalls.

Yes – there will be pianos available for both these spaces. Doorways are also being made wide enough to ensure pianos can be moved between spaces, and a new lift to the mezzanine will be large enough to accommodate a piano.

Concert Chamber FAQs

High quality retractable seating, mobile seating units, mobile staging and a comprehensive rigging grid will enable the Concert Chamber to be set up in a range of layouts, including the traditional stage-end.

The retractable seating planned for the Concert Chamber will be theatre grade, upholstered seating – so much more comfortable than the standard metal or plastic retractables found in many venues.

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