Dispute over building’s use continues

A decision is still yet to be made as to how to manage the Howick War Memorial Hall. Times photo Wayne Martin

It appears unlikely an east Auckland community facility will have its full potential utilised any time soon as a standoff over its management drags on.

The Howick War Memorial Hall, which is known to locals as the Howick Information Centre, is situated at 91 Picton Street.

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

Two years on and it’s yet to be reopened full-time.

In September last year the Howick Local Board publicly called for expressions of interest from groups keen to be involved with running it.

A recommendation was put to the board at its December 2021 business meeting advising it to approve the Howick Village Association (HVA) as the “preferred applicant at this stage” to manage the building.

Reasons included the association being well-established and having strong organisational and financial capability to manage the facility, among others.

When the board arrived at that item during the December meeting, member David Collings moved an amendment to give approval to council officers to talk to multiple groups about the prospect of working together “for the overall benefit of the Howick community” and report back to the board in February this year.

Collings’ amendment was passed after receiving support from board members Katrina Bungard, Bo Burns, Bruce Kendall, Mike Turinsky and Bob Wichman.

Board chairperson Adele White, deputy chairman John Spiller, and board member Peter Young opposed it.

Following the meeting, HVA chairman Ken Scott told the Times he was disappointed with Collings’ amendment and the board’s decision to pursue the option of having multiple groups work together to manage the building, which he feared may delay its reopening.

The building’s management was raised again at the board’s April business meeting.

A council report says after the board’s previous decision, council staff facilitated a series of workshops to see how the nine interested applicant groups could collaborate on a collective management approach.

The workshops were constructive and the applicants decided they preferred one of them take over the building’s management while “ensuring broad community access”, the report says.

“They could not identify a preferred group, but the two favoured applicants were Howick Village Association Inc and Uxbridge Community Projects.”

The report says both groups have good organisational and financial capabilities and council staff are confident either would enable broad community access to the facility.

Council staff recommended the board approve a community centre management agreement as the preferred option as it facilitates the board’s aspirations for a community hub model.

Recommended also was to approve the HVA as the preferred applicant to take over the building’s management, subject to finalisation of a satisfactory agreement, and approve a maximum annual budget for its operation of $81,451.

When the board came to vote on the item, Collings moved an alternative to the original recommendation for the board to defer the decision pending a workshop with the prospective applicants.

His recommendation passed by five votes to three with support from himself, Bungard, Burns, Kendall, and Wichman.

Spiller, White, and Young voted against it, while Turinsky was absent.