Public discussion on future of Founders Theatre
31st March, 2016

Hamilton's community will have a say in the future of the Founders Theatre.

At its monthly meeting today, Hamilton City Council voted unanimously in favour of public consultation to gauge the community's views on how the Founders Theatre matter should be handled.

Sean Murray, Executive Director of H3 – the Council's event facilities arm – says today's decision will kick-start a process in which members of the public and stakeholder groups from the performing arts community will make submissions on the future of the theatre.

"We've been fully aware the situation with Founders has been a 'hot topic' in the city – particularly for the performing arts community – and the public consultation process gives all interested individuals and groups an opportunity to contribute to this important discussion," Mr Murray says.

The exact timeframes and methods for the public consultation are still to be determined, but the Council will aim to make the information as accessible as possible through a range of channels. A survey of Hamilton and Waikato residents will be included, along with direct engagement with the public, the arts community and relevant organisations.

The consultation process will be detailed to the Mayor and Councillors in April, and is then expected to run for four weeks through May.

Once the public consultation period is concluded, staff will analyse the feedback and submissions and present a subsequent report and recommendation to the Mayor and Councillors in June. The June report will also include a detailed seismic assessment of the building.

The 54-year-old theatre was temporarily closed in February, following independent reports into the safety of the building and its flying system. The theatre's flying system, which relies on tall sailing ship technology to hoist and retrieve scenic backdrops and curtains, has reached the end of its usable life. There are concerns over the structural integrity of the building, particularly the stage house and the auditorium roof.

The staff report outlined three options for the future of the theatre:

  • Redevelopment of the existing Founders Theatre, estimated to take two-three years and at a cost of approximately $20m.
  • Demolition of the Founders Theatre and the construction of a new theatre, estimated to take up to five years and at a cost tentatively estimated to be $50m.
  • The permanent closure or "mothballing" of Founders, followed by the possible demolition of the building.

Background stories on the Founders Theatre situation will feature in the April edition of City News, which will be in Hamilton letterboxes on 10-11 April.