Work on strengthening the Hawke’s Bay Opera House will start in August and take about 18 months.

“We’re very pleased to be able to announce a start on the work. It has been a very detailed process getting to this point and we are aware that our residents have shown a lot of patience while they wait for the project to get started,” said Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule today.

Project manager Herman Wismeyer was appointed by Hastings District Council in November to oversee the project and this month a construction company will be appointed. Further details of the work programme will be released after that.

An extensive public consultation was carried out last year asking residents if they were in favour of strengthening and re-opening the opera house; 80 per cent of respondents were in favour of bringing the building up to 70 to 75 per cent of the current New Building Standard.

“It is a very big project, but with the backing of our people we believe that this level of intervention will ensure our opera house’s security into the future. It is a vital piece of our heritage, at more than 100 years old. We will all be extremely pleased to see it open and filled with our people again,” said Mr Yule.

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.

The indicative cost of strengthening the building is $11 million, however that could change through the finalising of the tender. Mr Yule said external fundraising opportunities were continuing to be investigated.

The membership of the Council subcommittee overseeing the project is made up of councillors George Lyons, Malcolm Dixon and Sandra Hazlehurst, chaired by councillor Adrienne Pierce.