RSA demolition on pause

By Janna Sherman

The fate of the earthquake risk Hokitika RSA building has been deferred to give members and the Westland District Council time to decide what do with the land it sits on.
Westland Mayor Mike Havill yesterday promised a 30-strong contingent of RSA members and supporters that the status of the land — designated as war memorial — would remain.
The building itself, which does not currently meet earthquake compliance standards, was still likely to come down. However, a working party with representatives of both the council and RSA members will be established to work through the consultation process together in the new year.
Hokitika RSA president Lyall Delore told the council that the past six months, since their base was forcibly closed by council staff, had taken a toll on members.
They wanted to be closely involved in any decision made about the site.
“This is a very emotional time. It is a turning point in this town’s history. It is an important decision and we want to make sure it is made correctly. We are realists. We realise the building is stuffed ... but I will 100% put my heart and soul into coming to a correct understanding for my men and will fight tooth and nail to achieve it.”
Mr Havill acknowledged it had not been easy for members.
He wanted to work to ensure an outcome was reached that benefited both the RSA and the community.
“I accept everything that has happened in the past. But the pathway ahead is what is important to me.”
The reality was the 1950s, two-storey brick building was a public safety hazard, he said.
“We have a building that has been condemned for public use. Council has a legal obligation to uphold the law that has been set in place. We can’t help the fact that the building has now been condemned but it is a war memorial reserve and we have no intention to (change the) status of land. The land is war memorial reserve.”
Mr Havill put it to the group that it investigate sharing another existing community facility, such as the Hokitika Grey Power rooms, and use the Sewell Street site to erect some sort of memorial of their choice.
However, that idea was not well received by members.
Rose Matthews said she supported the rebuild of a basic, smaller building back on the Sewell Street site.
“The land belongs to the RSA. Why can’t it be used by the RSA?” Mrs Matthews asked.
Mark Davies said sharing a facility was not the same.
“If your not a veteran and not in this environment, then with respect you can’t really understand,” Mr Davies said.
“We can meet elsewhere but it is not the same.”
RSA secretary Karen Burrows said a shared facility did not allow the RSA to have its own identity and its own base for sentimental memorabilia, which had been in storage since their eviction.
Mr Davies said it had been a difficult time for the RSA but they had to move forward.
The Mayor said a decision would not be rushed. The council resolved to form a working party to find common ground and get a memorandum of understanding before making a recommendation on the future of the land and building.
“It is my wish that this council get a good outcome with the Hokitika community. We want to work together to have something going forward to benefit the town and your group,” Mr Havill said.
Crs Mark Dawson, Jim Butzbach and Anthea Keenan were appointed to represent the council on the working group.