Historic rural hall seeks friends for funding
Posted at 8:00am Thursday 06 May, 2021
Susan Isemonger says the hall needs repairs now, and in future the committee would like to add a deck and larger windows so users can enjoy the views over the Oruawharo River.
One of the region's few remaining community-owned halls is running a membership drive in a bid to kick-start fundraising for much-needed repairs and renovation that could cost up to $300,000.
The Wharehine Community Hall, which sits on a ridge on Pah Hill Road overlooking the Oruawharo River west of Wellsford, was built in 1879 and started life as the old Port Albert schoolhouse.
It has long been the social hub for the rural community around Wharehine, hosting a wide variety of private and public functions, but it is now in desperate need of repair, with rotting wall boards, foundations, door frames and a leaking roof.
Committee chairperson Susan Isemonger says they would also like to reinstate the hall's original large windows, which were removed during a renovation many years ago and are currently stored under nearby Minniesdale House.
“If we're going to do it, we're not going to just stop the hall falling down – we'd like to put the old windows back in and add French doors and a deck, so people can wander outside and look at the water,” she says. “It's a beautiful spot and a cute little hall. We don't want to lose it.”
She says there are grants that can be applied for to fund the work, but the committee needs to demonstrate that community demand is there, so they are calling for local people to become members or friends of the hall.
“We need to get more members,” she says. “We would like 200, or even 100 would be better than what we have now. We have to show there's a wider interest in the hall, rather than just a few people who have a passion for it.”
Susan estimates that fixing the hall's problems will cost at least $200,000 to $300,000.
“There are very stringent criteria for this type of work these days, we can't just have a working bee like we used to,” she says. “We've got lots of architects, draughtspeople, builders and engineers living locally, but we can't just go ahead and do stuff ourselves any more, we've got to do it all the right way.”
Membership costs $30 per household per year (which includes half price hall hire) and is open to anyone living in and around the Wharehine area. Friends of the hall only need to provide a name, address and signature, and they do not need to live in the immediate area.