2 Dec 2009

Nelson divided over performing arts centre

6:18 am on 2 December 2009

People in Nelson are divided over a proposed $28 million performing arts centre.

Supporters and opponents have been arguing their case at a Nelson City Council hearing, which began on Tuesday. There are almost 600 submissions on the plan.

The proposal is supported by 56% of submitters, although half of those have reservations.

Nelson hasn't had a venue dedicated to big stage shows since the Majestic Theatre burned down in 1995.

Supporters say Nelson cannot call itself a centre for the arts without a proper venue, which they say is long overdue.

But opponents say the proposed site - in Rutherford Street near the city centre - is wrong, lacks parking and is too costly.

Of those who support the proposed centre, former Nelson city councillor Tui France says the council has already missed an earlier opportunity to build the so-called Millenium Arts venue.

She says if that had been built, it may have stopped the World of Wearable Arts show leaving Nelson for Wellington.

A consultant's report estimates the performing arts centre will cost $3.8 million a year to run, with maximum income put at $2.4 million.

It will cost another $4 million to buy the land from the adjoining Rutherford Hotel Group, which says it will build an expanded convention centre to run alongside the performing arts venue.

The region's tourism chief Paul Davis says his concern is that the convention centre - which will be the money-making side of the centre - will be owned by a private company.

The council hearing should finish on Wednesday, with a decision on the project due next week.