Masterton proposal to build on War Memorial Stadium land revealed in council documents

6:26 pm on 11 May 2021

Masterton District Council (MDC) documents have revealed closed-doors discussions on demolishing the town's earthquake-prone civic centre and constructing a new multi-purpose building on public-owned land currently occupied by the historic War Memorial Stadium.

Aerial view of Masterton, including rural hospital.

An aerial view of Masterton. Photo: rescuedave/123RF

Documents released under official information legislation show MDC investigated the demolition of the home of Golden Shears when considering options for a new civic centre.

The discussions were part of the preamble to MDC's long-term plan consultation "Stepping Up For Our Mokopuna".

The consultation called for residents' ideas on the proposals for improvements to the town centre, and a new multi-purpose facility to replace the town hall.

MDC chief executive Kath Ross yesterday said that the council was "not yet in a position to disclose the preferred site for the civic facility" and deliberations on public feedback would be held next month.

"This is because of the need to preserve the confidentiality of what are commercial negotiations.

"There are a number of sites that have been investigated and the council has options should it not be able to secure the preferred site.

"As the civic facility is part of the draft Long Term Plan consultation, submissions on the options proposed will be considered by the council as part of its deliberations process."

The information released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA] included a report discussed by councillors in a public-excluded meeting in December last year.

The release is the first public information identifying a potential place for the council's planned facility.

Since the closure of the town hall in 2016 due to earthquake risk, the council has engaged with the community to help shape what a new civic facility for Masterton should be.

The $31.4 million option included estimated costs of the demolition of a building as part of the project.

That information was redacted, but a footnote said "For the War Memorial only, does not account for demolition of the five-lane pool".

MDC has yet to confirm any locations for its planned new centre officially.

However, some councillors have recently made their views public.

Last month, Masterton councillor Chris Peterson told Local Democracy Reporting that MDC had received a proposal to use the council-owned War Memorial Stadium where Golden Shears was held.

"There was also an idea put to us for a very affordable upgrade of the War Memorial Stadium to tide us over until the lease on the land under New World [the neighbouring supermarket] expires and presents a further possible option.

"Just how critical that site is to Golden Shears would be a key question there."

Mayor of Masterton Lyn Patterson. Masterton reached 33 degrees, prompting children still on school holidays to take shelter at home or the pool.

Lyn Patterson. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

In August last year, mayor Lyn Patterson said MDC was looking at a range of potential locations. That followed a fact-finding tour of the lower North Island.

"We know it's taking time to make decisions on what to do after the closure of the old Town Hall, but we need to get it right - not just for today's generations but also for future generations," Patterson previously said.

"Our requirements are subject to change depending on the size of the location and costs.

"Because we want to make sure we develop a facility that really does benefit Masterton, we are looking at various potential locations within our town."

In February, councillor Gary Caffell said MDC planned to sell the town hall, and municipal buildings should its long term plan [LTP] go ahead.

Caffell believed the council should be telling the public "what we are doing with the building", or at least "give them a hint".

"Every time I talk to people about this plan, the question always comes back, what are we doing with the building?

"At the end of the day, if things work out for us, they will be put up for sale."

After the meeting, Patterson said the proposed site had not been signed off, and the process to finalise it was commercially sensitive.

A report from the meeting said alternative locations within Masterton for the new facility were under consideration because the current site, on the corners of Perry and Chapel Sts and Lincoln Rd, was not large enough for the council to build on.

Ross confirmed yesterday that the council had still not made a decision on the "old town hall and municipal buildings".

Consultation on the council's long term plan closed last week.

Verbal hearings on the consultation are scheduled for next week, and deliberation in June.

Councillors meet tomorrow for an audit and risk committee meeting, and a full council discussion.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.