A proposed upgrade of Rotorua's Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre has received support from Sir Owen Glenn and the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust.
Sir Owen has announced he will donate $3m to the proposed project while the Rotorua Trust has agreed in principle to contribute $1.5m.
The building had to be closed in November, until further notice, following a detailed seismic assessment found it was below required standards. Options for the centre were presented to Rotorua Lakes Council later that month and elected members decided to proceed to detailed design for both earthquake strengthening and an upgrade. The detailed design work will enable final costings to be ascertained so decisions can be made on how to proceed.
Councillors decided earthquake strengthening so the building could be reopened was a core priority and that proposed upgrades would need to be dependent on external funding. They were aware there were early indications of interest from several potential funders to support the upgrade work.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says confirmed commitments from Sir Owen and Rotorua Trust are “fantastic news”.
“This early support which will help boost efforts to secure other funding. I'll look forward to expressing our gratitude to both Sir Owen and Rotorua Trust personally. Their support is very much appreciated.
“There is some urgency with this but we will need to be a little patient to enable everything to be done thoroughly and properly.
“The centre has been important to our community and we can't be without a facility like this long term. We want to be able to settle on an option as soon as possible and get things underway as quickly as we can.”
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Owen has supported individuals, groups and organisations worldwide and was knighted 2013 for his services to philanthropy. He hopes his donation will encourage others to support not only the proposed Rotorua project, but arts and culture in general.
Sir Owen says he's pleased to be able to pay tribute in this way to his good friend Sir Howard Morrison. “I always wanted to do something in his memory so I hope this project will go ahead.”
He has been a regular in Rotorua since before he and Sir Howard became friends, visiting annually during his hockey playing days and still attending occasional race meetings if his horses are featuring at Arawa Park. “It's one of my favourite places,” he says.
Sir Owen will be back in Rotorua at the end of the month when he will spend time with the Morrison whanau.
Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust chairman Stewart Edward says the local trust unanimously supports refurbishment of the centre, recognising it as an important community facility.
He says the trust sees the proposed project as an opportunity to enhance the centre in a more contemporary fashion.
“The closure has had a significant impact on the artistic and commercial lifeblood of the city,” says Stewart. “The trust is fortunate to be in a position to help with the upgrade without compromising its ability to provide grants through its regular monthly grants cycle. These grants help organisations, big and small, to achieve our collective goal of making a better Rotorua for all.”
The performing arts centre funding will be subject to the Trust's usual application procedures, including a solid business case.