Building a sheer wall: Herman Wismeyer, Focus Project Management, shows where the reinforcing steel is ‘pinned’ to the old bricks, after which the boxing (bottom of photo) is fitted and the concrete poured into the recess.

The arrival of an impressively large crane in the past week means the 80 tonnes of steel that needs to be hoisted into the Hawke’s Bay Opera House can go ahead from today.

The process is tricky, with sections of the old roof needing to be removed each morning and replaced each evening, to ensure that the historic building is weather-protected. “That protection is of critical importance, given the heritage value of the building and how dear it is to our community,” said Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

Over the next eight to 10 weeks, the steel will be bolted into place and then a new roof constructed over it. That roof would have a slightly altered profile from the side, however the profile from the front would remain unchanged, said Hastings District Council programmes and facilities group manager Alison Banks.

Inside the Opera House the building of the sheer walls continued; designed to make safe the unreinforced three-story brick walls around the theatre that were earthquake-prone. Each of the walls had been encased in steel rod mesh which was pinned into the brick. ‘Boxing’ was then placed on each side and concrete poured into the recesses. That resulted in an average 300cm-thick sleeve of concrete encasing the old bricks.

“This will ensure that the building is as safe as possible,” said Mrs Hazlehurst.

“We are really looking forward to seeing the finished work on this major project by the end of next year, and celebrating the reopening of the Opera House with the community. There will be lots of exciting events which will showcase the importance the 100-year-old building has to our people.”

Once the Opera House roof was completed, work on the enclosing of the adjacent Plaza would begin in earnest. The floor recess had been filled in to make it one level – a move designed to make it much more user-friendly for a wider range of events.

Of primary importance was that the finished facility would have a permanent roof, as opposed to the previous canvas cove, and would therefore be weather-tight and able to be heated. The Plaza is due to be completed and able to be used by the end of this year, said Mrs Banks.