Regional theatre gains widespread support

The Hamilton mayor is spending money "like a drunken sailor" and will likely get turfed out of office next time at the polls, says Waikato Regional Councillor Russ Rimmington.

Not that Rimmington wants Hamilton Mayor Andrew king to lose his post. He think's he is doing a good job.

But the $72.9 million Waikato Regional Theatre proposal, under discussion at a council meeting on Thursday looking at the 2018-2028 long term plan consultation document, was a bridge too far.

"I think Mayor King is a good mayor," Rimmington said. "I don't want to see him chucked out but the way he is going, spending money like a drunken sailor, the theatre is not going to see the light of day."

Hamilton City Council's proposal to the Waikato Regional Council would see a $5 million funded by district councils around the region.

The preferred funding model would see Waikato, Waipa and Matamata Piako district councils raise $4.5 million dollars between them to help get the theatre up and running. All other territorial authorities in Waikato have been asked to chip in towards an additional $500,000.

An asset maintenance fund would cost $300,000. Voting was split 6 to 6 with Jane Hennebry abstaining.

Council chairman Alan Livingston had to make a casting vote to break the deadlock and chose to stick with the recommendation and consult with the public over the preferred funding model and alternative options.

Councillors want a regional theatre to go ahead, Rimmington said, but the issue was one of affordability.

He suggested another option - refurbish Founder's Theatre - to which Cr Fred Lichtwark applauded.
Concept drawing of the Waikato Regional Theatre 
Council's chief financial officer Mike Garrett said considering Founders would be inappropriate. That was backed up by council's chief executive Vaughan Payne.

"The challenge is if we want to consult on an alternative proposal today, we don't have enough information on that proposal to provide to the community to give us some feedback," Payne said.

But Rimmington said it is a legitimate option that should be put out for the public and he should know -  he's seen local politics manipulated before, when he was at Hamilton City Council.

"We pulled the same stunt. We wanted new headquarters for the Fieldays Society and what did we do, we couldn't get the numbers so we all of a sudden found asbestos.

Cr Hugh Vercoe said Hamilton City have asked two simple questions - does the region support the theatre and if so, how should it be funded? They didn't ask for alternative options.

"Hamilton have said they will put up $25m and they are asking the region to contribute. That's what we are consulting on. It's not for us to say: 'We know better than you.'

"It is an insult to Hamilton City. If the people say no, they say no."

All district councils in Waikato were sent the theatre proposal. Despite South Waikato giving the regional theatre an emphatic 'no', other district councils supported the city proposal.

Hamilton, Hauraki, Otorohanga voted for the theatre and preferred funding model and Thames-Coromandel supported the funding but wanted incurred debt repaid in 20 years. The asset maintenance fund would be limited to three years.

Waikato District Council wanted its northern residents considered for a lower rate but it was voted down by council.

Matamata Piako wants a uniform rate across the entire region. Feedback from Rotorua and Taupo was not received before the meeting.