Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Decision imminent on future of Howick War Memorial Hall

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Former Howick Village Association chairperson Ken Scott was perplexed by the amount of time it’s taken to decide the management of the Howick War Memorial Hall. Times file photo Wayne Martin

Resolution may finally be at hand in the ongoing saga of the management of the Howick War Memorial Hall.

The Howick Local Board is set to discuss the issue at its business meeting on Thursday, May 16, and some of the key people involved have stated their intention to address the board on it.

Debate has been raging for several years over who should run the facility with various groups in the community applying to take on the role.

Among those interested were Howick Village Association (HVA), Uxbridge Community Projects, Howick Tourism, the Pakuranga Chinese Association and Howick Community Hub, among others.

The Picton Street building, more commonly known as the Howick Information Centre, was closed along with most Auckland Council facilities in the first half of 2020 when New Zealand went into its first Covid-19 lockdown.

In late 2021 council staff recommended the local board appoint the HVA as the preferred applicant to manage it.

The council is managing the building as a venue for hire.

An issue relating to the facility arose during one of the board’s final business meetings late last year.

Its members were told their Howick Youth Facility and Programmes required additional funding of $130,000 to secure a long-term Youth Space at the Botany Town Centre.

Council staff recommended $82,000 from the budget for the Howick War Memorial Hall and $48,000 from Community Grants Howick be reallocated.

Board chairperson Damian Light said the $82,000 in the hall’s budget was “on pause” as there was currently no activity to spend it on and he supported the recommendation to reallocate the money.

Member David Collings said he was very supportive of the youth facility but he’d never seen the board allocate five years’ of funding in one financial year.

Light asked Collings what his objection was to putting the funding up.

“I go away for a couple of weeks and all of a sudden that money is taken out of that … I don’t want that money to be taken away,” Collings said.

“I fought very hard to keep that money in the first place. You weren’t on the board at the time.

“This is being reallocated out of that budget so there won’t be any money to forward anything to do with the war memorial hall … this financial year.”

Light told Collings he hadn’t answered his question and added: “It’s a real shame you weren’t in the workshop last week when we discussed this in detail. The board had a very robust discussion …”

At that point Collings interrupted Light and talked over him.

After Collings finished speaking, other members asked questions about the item before the board voted to approve the reallocation of $130,000 toward the Howick Youth Facility and Programmes.

Now, several people are named in the agenda for the board’s May 16 meeting as wanting to speak on the issue, including Howick Ratepayers and Residents Association chairperson Janet Dickson, HVA committee members, community volunteer Margaret Hawkeswood, and members of the Howick Community Hub.

A report provided to the board states the item is to formalise proposed changes to the building’s operating model.

It says council staff recommended that from July 1 the hall formally move to a venue-for-hire delivery model with relevant fees and charges, which will generate a modest revenue.

“A permanent shift to venue-for-hire allows the EOI process to be officially closed and interested parties and community to be informed of the future direction for the hall.

“Staff propose to implement this change via development of the 2024/2025 Howick Local Board work programme and recommend a schedule of fees.”

Recommendations put to the board are that it approve the building operating as an official venue for hire managed through the standard council venue booking systems and for officers to apply hire fees and charges to the building in line with a specified framework.

Former HVA chairman Ken Scott previously told the Times the organisation was disappointed and confused as to why the board had been unable to approve the HVA as the facility’s manager.

Council staff had made the recommendation to the board at least three times in recent years and each time it failed to receive sufficient support to pass.

On one occasion none of the board’s members moved or seconded the item so no vote was held.

“My first reaction was I wasn’t sure what was going on,” Scott said at the time.

“I was very disappointed. All of our executive committee is pretty disappointed.

“Three times now it’s gone through a very robust process, it’s gone to the board and they’ve been unable to make a decision, so that’s very frustrating and disappointing.”

Scott said the HVA wanted the facility to be the “heart” of Howick village.

“It’s got huge potential to be used by all sorts of community groups, school groups, art groups, so there’s something happening there all the time and it just makes the village that much more vibrant.”

  • Disclosure: Howick Local Board deputy chairperson Bo Burns is the owner of the Times.

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