Updated: May 20, 2020

Most kids growing up in a Kiwi town will have memories of sitting through plays and boring speeches, eating scones then running around afterwards at the local hall, while the adults drunk tea and beer and yarned. It's a part of the community landscape where a myriad of events are held from funerals to festivals, performances, meetings, even marriages. In Cromwell, however there is a generation of kids who won't really have had that. Our existing hall has been loved historically but is now dated, too small and under used. It's important, of course, as a war memorial but Anzac Day formalities may be the only memories many of our young people will have of community hall life.

It's been nineteen years now since Cromwell people, and their representatives on the Cromwell Community Board, started discussing the ins and outs of revamping our current hall(built in 1959) or building a new one. Many kids will have grown up and left town in that space of time.

So what's the deal Cromwell, why such a long yarn and such little action?

Cromwell's existing hall can be seen at the centre of this image, at the right of the Kawarau Arm 'bay'.

This quote from 2018 by Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogen, taken from a story by Pam Jones in the Otago Daily Times, summed up the situation well:

"Cromwell does not have a hall that is fit for purpose and will not have one for a very long time, as the board and the community essentially repeats the process undertaken by the previous board. In the meantime, Cromwell faces the devil’s alternative of either letting the hall as it currently stands be used for conferences, functions, etc and risk reputational damage to the town as a venue because the hall is tired to the point where it is an embarrassment, or to not go out and seek such large opportunities until such time as the new board and community decide ‘where to from here’. Other users of the hall are also in a very uncertain position. It is likely Cromwell will sit in this limbo for a long time as the process that is being repeated is not a quick one."

In 2019 a group of locals got together and eventually the Cromwell Culture Centre Trust(CCC) was formed. The idea was to get on with planning for a hall replacement and make it a community-led process. Meanwhile the Central Otago District Council had embarked on a major planning activity(known as the Cromwell Masterplan) which looked at the whole town, housing, public facilities, recreation, business and industry.

There's provision there for some kind of hall development but financial investigations are ongoing, as part of the big picture planning exercise.

Jocelyn Johnston(left) and Jessie Sutherland are among those who have toiled many hours looking into what Cromwell people want in a Hall. Jessie is also a Connect Cromwell Steering Group member and Jocelyn is secretary of the Cromwell Community Trust. At left is the rear of the existing building which has a 'medium' type earthquake risk classification.

Connect Cromwell met with the CCC in 2019 to see if we could help. This rather frustrated but hard working and determined volunteer group rallied public support and got on with looking into what and how could be built to meet the needs of a rapidly growing town. Experienced Communications Consultant Brigid Feely volunteered time to honing the project's push forward and all continue on today.

There is an acceptance however that it does have to wait for the Cromwell Masterplan process to grind on with assessing financing and planning before local government will entertain any concrete discussions on land use, building plans etc. How budgets can be done in detail before decisions have been made on exactly what's to be built has been among recent subjects of debate on Cromwell's social media.

The CCC have been told the hall project can't qualify as a post-Covid-19 'shovel-ready' project, which would have given it a nice financial kick-along, but they press on, ever keen to find ways to progress.

Meanwhile the next lot of babies are being born, growing up, missing out, leaving town...

Follow the CCC's journey here...

and on facebook.

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