Frustration, confusion over indecision on community building

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Howick Village Association chairman Ken Scott says he’s disappointed over a lack of progress relating to management of the Howick War Memorial Hall. Times photo Wayne Martin

Questions are being asked about why the Howick Local Board has so far been unable to appoint an organisation to manage an underused community building.

Howick Village Association (HVA) chairman Ken Scott says he’s disappointed and confused as to why a majority of the board’s members have repeatedly rejected recommendations to approve the HVA as manager of the Howick War Memorial Hall in Picton Street.

Council staff made the recommendation to the board three times since December last year and each time it’s failed to receive sufficient support to pass.

On the most recent occasion, during the board’s July business meeting, none of its members moved or seconded the item so no vote was held.

“My first reaction was I wasn’t sure what was going on,” Scott told the Times.

“I was very disappointed. All of our executive committee is pretty disappointed.

“Three times now it’s gone through a very robust process, it’s gone to the board and they’ve been unable to make a decision, so that’s very frustrating and disappointing.”

The ongoing saga around the building’s management stems from the first half of 2020 when most council-owned facilities were closed as New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown.

The board first received a recommendation from council staff at its business meeting in December last year to approve the HVA as the preferred applicant to manage the building.

When the item arose, board member David Collings moved a successful amendment giving approval to council officers to talk to multiple groups about working together for the benefit of the Howick community.

The subject was back before the board in April, when it was again recommended to approve the HVA as the preferred applicant.

That time Collings moved a successful alternative to the recommendation for the board to defer the decision pending a workshop with prospective applicants.

Scott says prior to the board’s July business meeting he wasn’t optimistic a decision would finally be made about the building’s management.

But the HVA was “hopeful and confident” it had done all it could to present its case, he says.

“Without that ability to speak directly to board members to understand what their issues were with the HVA, it was very difficult.

“I really don’t know why it is they don’t seem to be prepared to accept the advice the council has [given].”

He says the difficulty with the desire of some board members for a group of organisations to work together is the council had made it clear it would only sign a contract with one organisation.

Scott says despite the setbacks, the HVA’s objectives for the facility remain.

“We want that building to be the heart of Howick village.

“It’s got huge potential to be used by all sorts of community groups, school groups, art groups, so there’s something happening there all the time and it just makes the village that much more vibrant.”

Board chair Adele White told the Times she was unable to comment.

The best indication as to why certain board members oppose appointing the HVA as the building’s manager may have been expressed by Collings during a previous board’s business meeting.

He said he understood council staff wanting to have one head group in charge of the facility, but he disagreed with that approach as “it makes it harder for individual groups to work together” if there’s one primary tenant.

“They are always on the back foot and it doesn’t matter who they are.

“If there’s a head group it feels like they’re taking control.

“I would like to see different groups in there working in the interest of the community.”

The building continues to be available as a venue for hire until a long-term decision over its management is made.