Community building’s management still undecided

Auckland Council closed the Howick War Memorial Hall in Picton Street during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown and it’s yet to be reopened full-time. Times photo Wayne Martin

After more than six months of debate a decision about how an east Auckland community facility should be managed has still not been made.

Howick Local Board members were asked during their business meeting this month to approve a new community-led management approach for the Howick War Memorial Hall building in Picton Street.

But when they arrived at that item during the meeting no vote was held, leaving its future undecided.

The building closed in the first half of 2020 along with most other Auckland Council-owned facilities when New Zealand went into a Covid-19 lockdown.

It’s now operating as a venue for hire but is yet to reopen full-time.

A report provided to board members said last year council staff began an expression of interest process to transfer the hall’s management to the community.

Nine applications from interested groups were received.

Following direction from the board, council staff ran workshops to see how the parties could work together on a collective management approach.

The applicants preferred one of them to take over the building’s management while “ensuring broad community access”.

They couldn’t identify a preferred group but the two favoured applicants were Howick Village Association (HVA) and Uxbridge Community Projects.

The board invited interested applicants to another workshop on June 30.

Council staff then recommended the board approve the HVA as the preferred applicant to manage and operate the building under a “community centre management agreement”.

The recommendation presented to the board at its July 18 business meeting asked it to approve the agreement as the preferred option, and to approve the HVA as the preferred applicant to manage the building.

Board members were also asked to approve a maximum annual budget for the building’s operation of $81,451.

And they were asked to approve council staff to investigate improvements to make it fit for purpose.

When the item arose during the meeting chairperson Adele White called for members to move and second it.

That’s done so they can discuss it, ask questions, and vote on it.

No board member moved or seconded the item, but several asked questions.

Once their questions had been answered, board member David Collings raised a point of clarification.

He said: “You’ve called for a mover and a seconder for the item and no one has come forward.

“I’m not even sure why we’re asking questions? The item just falls if it doesn’t have a mover.”

White replied that Collings was correct.

Another board member then asked a question, before the item failed and the board moved to the next item in its meeting agenda.

The board has held several previous votes relating to the building’s management.

It received a recommendation at its business meeting in December last year to approve the HVA as the preferred applicant.

When the board came to the item Collings moved an amendment giving approval to council officers to talk to multiple groups about working together for the benefit of the Howick community and then report back.

His amendment was passed six votes to three.

The building’s management was then raised again at a board business meeting in April this year.

Council officers again recommended the board approve the HVA as the preferred applicant.

Collings moved an alternative to the recommendation for the board to defer the decision pending a workshop with prospective applicants.

His recommendation was passed by five votes to three, as one board member was absent.

A council spokesperson told the Times the building will “continue to operate as a venue for hire”.