A local councillor believes the upcoming $3 million upgrade of the Queenstown Memorial Hall is a waste of money.
Cr Simon Stamers-Smith says he formed this opinion during a concert at the venue last Saturday which was held to raise money for the upgrade.
“The evening was such a success, it shows that you can hold exceptionally good entertainment there,” he says.
“Why change what works?”
Stamers-Smith singles out an enlarged foyer – proposed as part of the upgrade – for criticism.
“Who needs a grand foyer? A foyer is only an entrance into a hall, after all.”
The argument that Queenstown misses “all these wonderful shows” because of backstage deficiencies doesn’t wash with him.
“We’ve survived without those shows so far, and those that have arrived have been very successful, I would have thought.”
Stamers-Smith recalls a hall upgrade in the ’90s: “No doubt we’ll have to come back in 10, 11, 12 years’ time and spend another $5m.”
The councillor – who hopes ratepayer funds won’t be tapped – says he’s sure there are better causes that $3m could be spent on.
“A convention centre is obviously the major need.”
Fellow councillor Cath Gilmour, who chairs the Queenstown Memorial Hall Trust, says: “Simon’s erroneous belief is testament to the huge skills and efforts of everyone involved in Saturday night’s fundraiser to cover up the hall’s myriad shortfalls and defects.
“It is interesting that the only critics of this upgrade are people who have never worked, performed or held conferences in the hall.”
Gilmour says those who’ve used the venue have supported the trust 150 per cent “because they all know the hall is basically a pig to perform in”.
The 1998 upgrade had included none of the improvements wanted by performers, she adds.
“I can assure Simon the shows will get even better once they get something close to the venue their talents deserve.
“I must admit I’m disappointed to hear Simon’s views in that, as a councillor, he clearly fails to recognise the vital importance of the hall as a heart of this community.”
In an opinion piece in Mountain Scene last week, Queenstown-based businessman and philanthropist Sir Eion Edgar argued the hall upgrade was a sustainable, doable and affordable project that solved nearly all its problems. Edgar also chairs the Central Lakes Trust which has granted $1m to the project.