13 July 2018
TV3s AM Show has arrived in Rotorua to find a city where the meaning of heritage is being re-invented.
Having come from Queenstown, Nelson and Napier – all provincial centres with provincial challenges and strong historical stories – the show is in Rotorua at time when the city’s heritage has become a contentious subject.
Bill McKay, a senior lecturer in the School of Architecture and Planning at Auckland University, spoke on the Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon show this week about the erosion of public space by conversion to other, sometimes commercial, uses.
He expressed concerns about how marina developments were taking over open harbour areas and a central city square had been sold and converted to a “laneway” that was essentially a mall.
Much of these transfers out of public spaces to private use are being down under the umbrella of Auckland City-related business entities, like those established by the Rotorua Lakes Council.
Fears are growing in Rotorua that a similar process is underway in Rotorua, in which areas and places which have been historically utilised by a wide range of people will be portioned off, so they will be less open and more commercialised.
The AM Show’s last stop before Rotorua was Napier, where the show’s set was planted firmly in front of the Napier Soundshell. Built in 1935 following the 1931 earthquake, this beautiful building typifies the art deco style of many of the city’s historic buildings.
The guest sport’s presenter on Wednesday’s show, Brendon Telfer, recalled as a kid how he’d come to Napier and revelled in seeing some of New Zealand’s great musicians of the time performing.
The late Howard Morrison was included in the Telfer enjoyed while staying in Napier.
Sir Howard started his career at the Rotorua Soundshell, which makes it one of New Zealand’s most historic buildings from a music/creative viewpoint. Many other notable artists played gigs there and many got their start at the Soundshell.
However, the Rotorua Lakes Council has deemed the building must be demolished to make way for a planned “world class lakefront” project.
This follows news of a plans for a large health and wellness centre being planned in the lakefront area currently occupied by the QE Health Wellness and Spa centre, another historic building, and the demolishing of the hotel overlooking Ohinemutu.
The AM Show has been based at Jean Batten Square, in the gap next to the new library/health hub, not allowing viewers to see the wonderful aspects available from the Rotorua lakefront. Instead, the focus of the first morning was on homelessness in Rotorua and the council’s heavy-handed approach to the Visions of a Helping Hand overnight drop-in shelter’s temerity for allowing visitors fall asleep.
Interviewed host Duncan Garner, Mayor Steve Chadwick may have been surprised that, after extolling the city's positives, she was tackled over the homeless situation and the council's clumsy handling of the drop-in centres bid to at least provide somewhere for those less fortunate a place to put their head down.
The question that could also be asked is: Rather than spending seemingly unaccountable amounts of money of risky bids to grow visitor numbers, would the council have been better off focusing on the welfare of citizen in this cold winter 2018?
(Pictured above: Mayor Steve Chadwick with, from right Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson.)