Historic Places Wellington is opposing an application by Porirua City Council for resource consent to demolish this building. The City Council is the building’s owner.
The building, which has in recent decades been used by the Porirua Little Theatre, was constructed in 1942-43, during World War 2, as a recreation hall for the U.S. Marines stationed at the Titahi Bay Camp. Eight camps were established along the West Coast of the Wellington region during that time either using buildings already in existence (such as the old golf club house at Titahi Bay) or constructing purpose built facilities within very tight time frames. Since the war these buildings have gradually been demolished and now the hall at Titahi Bay is the only purpose built structure still in existence from these eight camps and still in its original location.
After the war the hall became an important community venue used for a wide variety of activities and a range of organisations among which the Porirua Little Theatre has been the most lasting and major tenant.
In historical terms, the association with the US Marines is the building’s most significant quality. It directly illustrates New Zealand’s role in the Pacific war and our modern association with the United States which began at that time. This wartime association still resonates strongly today, as shown by the strong community interest and participation in last year’s 70th anniversary celebrations of the Marines’ arrival.
The hall is a plain and utilitarian structure, but this in no way detracts from its significance. This has been recognised by the City Council, which has included it in Group B (Buildings of Regional or Local Significance) in the District Plan.
Unfortunately the recent history of the building is a sorry story, and the blame has to be laid mainly with the Porirua City Council. Maintenance has been neglected and what work has been done has actually added to problems instead of fixing them. Materials used in the original construction, being wartime, were not of the best standard, and subsequent neglect has made matters much worse.
There is considerable community concern and support for keeping this piece of World War 2 history. Historic Places Wellington is asking the Council to defer its application until interested parties have been fully consulted, and properly costed options for repairing and retaining of the building have been prepared.
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