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On time, on budget, looking good

by The Northland Age

No one would contemplate a building refurbishment on the scale of the $1.9 million investment that is being made in Kaitaia's Far North Community Centre without some trepidation. Very early in the process he conceded that there had been some "little surprises," but the worry lines on Te Ahu general manager Mark Osborne's face do not seem quite as pronounced as they were last year.

To the layman's eye the interior of the much-loved complex has all the hallmarks of a shambles, and a busy one at that, but the job, Mr Osborne said, was on time, on budget and looking good.

The need to meet time schedules had added piquancy, he said, courtesy of the solemn undertaking that had been given to the Kaitaia and Districts A&P Association that main hall would be ready for this year's show in a couple of weeks' time. "It will be too," he said, "believe it or not."

Much of the money that has been spent on the community centre thus far, the bulk of it required to make amends for many years without maintenance and original building standards that, in places, were less than perfectionist, is 'invisible,' but there is plenty to be admired all the same, not least new patio decking, a vast improvement on the original, using planks of which rice husks are a major component.

"It looks very nice, and apparently it goes forever," Mr Osborne said.

The Supper Room floor has been stripped back to the original wood, and 20 light fittings behind the foyer mural, none of which had ever had lamps, are now ready to improve the appearance of that feature manyfold.

The Supper Room now also features airconditioning, for which future public meeting attendees will no doubt give thanks.

New toilets have been installed within the existing toilet area plus a large chunk of what used to be foyer, with a new front entrance from what will soon be the Te Ahu Centre part of the overall complex. The toilets have been designed and finished with longevity in mind, the finishing touches including self-cleaning bowls and sensor lights that brighten the interior when someone enters.
The granite tops in both sets of toilets were described by Mr Osborne as indestructible and having strong visual appeal.

The women's toilets include a baby-changing room, while four additional toilets will be constructed within the new build.

The new seats were about to arrive for the Little Theatre, now converted for use as both a cinema and a venue for live theatre, the transition from one to the other taking no more than a few minutes.

The theatre too is now fully airconditioned, although double roofing and insulation had already made a major difference in terms of air temperature, which will now be maintained at around 20 degrees Celsius, at a cost of $2 per day.

The "swamp," as Mr Osborne described it, that had been found beneath the stage had been drained and underfloor insulation had been installed.

Much of the backstage area is new too, although the original rimu doors have been retained



Meanwhile the new build, the Te Ahu Centre, had been totally future-proofed, Mr Osborne added. Again there wasn't a great deal to be seen at this stage, but the steel was due to arrive around the end of this month, followed by concrete tilt panels.

"For a long time there's really been nothing, but all of a sudden it'll be whoomph," he said.

"Once the steel frames are in place the building will be closed in and progress will be more obvious."

A 100-tonne crane would be brought in from Whangarei to erect the framing, which would rise to about eight metres above ground level.

"There's probably half a million dollars that's been spent that can't be seen," he added, "but we've sought out the very best value for money, both in terms of what we need now and what we will need in the future, every step of the way. That includes a whole new stormwater system, with a new outlet to the river."

The theatre/cinema would be the first part of the project to be completed, however, around the middle of the year. As of Tuesday all that remained to be installed there were the curtains, projection equipment, some lighting, the cinema screen and sound system.

Mr Osborne said it was particularly pleasing that the majority of the work was going to local contractors and suppliers, with up to 30 personnel on-site on a daily basis.

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