Gemco Construction has been announced today as the successful tenderer for the earthquake strengthening of the Hawke’s Bay Opera House.

The locally-based building company will prepare a detailed construction plan. If that proves acceptable to Council, construction is expected to start in August and take about 18 months.

That announcement signals the start of further consultation on the future of the neighbouring Municipal Buildings, as promised by Hastings District Council at the time of last year’s public consultation on the future of both buildings and a wider plan for the cultural centre of the district.

Over the last 12 months, Council staff have continued to have conversations with art and cultural groups about the Municipal Building. The range of people involved in those discussions will now broaden out to a point where a public consultation will be held, expected to be before the end of this year. That part of the project is being coordinated by the Municipal Buildings Working Group, chaired by Hastings Community Arts Centre manager Pitsch Leiser, reporting back to the Council subcommittee running the opera house and Municipal Buildings projects.

Further details of the construction programme for the opera house will be released in coming months, however one piece of work will be to add temporary strengthening to the exterior of the Municipal Building and reconfigure the safety fence, to provide access to the opera house.

“This is a very positive step forward. We are looking forward to seeing the construction plan, and like the rest of our community, we can’t wait see something happening on the site,” said councillor Adrienne Pierce, chairperson of the Council subcommittee overseeing the projects.

The Hawke’s Bay Opera House was closed in 2014 after engineers found the 12-metre side walls of the theatre could collapse on an audience during an earthquake. Parts of the opera house fell well short of national requirements to reach at least 34 per cent of the current building code.