Queenstown council’s $800,000 hall upgrade rescue package

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Queenstown Lakes District Council has agreed to come to the rescue of the multi-million dollar Memorial Hall upgrade project.

The council, at a special meeting this afternoon (Tuesday), voted unanimously to grant $500,000 to the project as well as provide a bridging loan of $300,000 to the Queenstown Memorial Hall Trust for any outstanding costs that might arise.

The project, estimated to cost about $3 million, was on the brink of coming unstuck. That’s despite more than $2.2 million having been raised in grants and contributions from the community and local trusts – including a $1 million grant from the Central Lakes Trust.

The hall trust had made an application for the remaining $800,000 to the Lotteries Commission which rejected it earlier this month, revealed in Mountain Scene. However, Lotteries indicated it would reconsider a contribution if council chipped in more money.

The council had already committed $492,000 to the hall.

The new $500,000 grant from council is to come from the unallocated portion of the Queenstown Airport Corporation dividend expected to be more than $2.5 million for the 2012/2013 financial year. An initial round of public consultation on how to apportion the new airport dividends received no opposition to splitting it – half to be used to repay debt and the other half for community projects.

However, councillors were mindful that a policy for using the dividend hasn’t been finalised and voted to describe the $500,000 hall grant as a “one-off allocation of the unallocated portion” of the dividend.

Before councillors voted, a large number of people spoke in support of granting the extra funding, including Central Lakes Trust’s Sir Eion Edgar who called it a “no-brainer” and said to not grant it would put funding already committed to the project at risk if needed later.

Simon Green, speaking as a committed thespian, said the upgrade was vital to support community arts and culture.

Other supporters and users of the hall noted some parts of it – including the backstage areas and tiered seating are unsafe, whilst corporate backers bringing conference groups to town stated the upgrade was vital to attract such business to the Wakatipu.