Future use of the Muncipal Building


Hastings District Council’s Municipal Building project is part of the overall Hawke’s Bay Opera House Precinct work programme. This also includes the Opera House and Plaza buildings.

The precinct development is an investment in cultural infrastructure. Council and community consider the works a vital part of cultural and economic revitalisation of Hastings City.

The Municipal Building is a standalone project, but its cultural and economic value are integral to the overall Opera House Precinct. This includes seismic strengthening work, refurbishment of the Opera House and redevelopment of what was the Plaza into a multi-use function space.

Earthquake strengthening and interior redevelopment are the two main stages of this project. The two streams go hand-in-hand: without interior redevelopment, Council will have an earthquake strengthened building but no code of compliance for use.


Mid 2015: Ahead of public consultation to help find the best way forward for the Opera House, Plaza and Municipal Building an Independent Working Party (IWP) was established to formulate potential options for the wider precinct. The recommendations put to council later that year included the need to find a new use for the Municipal Building that would justify the strengthening costs.

February 2017: The Municipal Building Working Group was established to inform discussions about the future use of the facility. This comprised members of the arts community, iwi and others closely involved with the facility, some over many years.

July 2018: Based on these in-depth discussions architects Matthews & Matthews Ltd, together with Dena Aroha Bach, presented draft concept designs for the Municipal Building to Council.

September 2018: Concept designs were presented to the community at a public meeting held at the Hastings City Art Gallery and published in the HB Today. The public was invited to add their voice to the conversation through a feedback form on the Hawke’s Bay Opera House website.

December 2018: Further community engagement through a ‘pop-up’ booth in the Hastings CBD enabled further conversations with business associations, community and performing arts groups, developers, working group members and the public.


Feedback gathered from community engagement indicates a desire for a logical and fitting focus to be identified for the Municipal Building reflective of its history, and as a companion to the Opera House Theatre and the former Plaza space.

Based on this community feedback, the following aspirations were established:

Integrated and future-proofed facility
◦Integrated with the CBD Revitalisation Strategy – additionality to other investment.
◦Key identified heritage features are preserved/enhanced.
◦Flexible and adaptive design and spaces

Value for money community facility
◦Optimum use of external capital.
◦Municipal Building and wider arts and events centre is operationally sustainable on rates.

Multi-use facility
◦Enhances and showcases performing arts.
◦Complementary events/conference space to the Plaza.
◦Provides pathways for youth.
◦Enhanced arts and entertainment centre user experience.
◦Showcases Ngāti Kahungunu and Takitimu performing arts.

Against these goals, Hastings District Council considered the following options, applying a weighting to each:

Option A – Do nothing. Strengthen exterior  walls – removes risk of collapse, but leaves building as a shell and with no code of compliance for use.
Option B – Strengthen and sell. Hastings District Council recoups part of strengthening costs, but loses control of the building.
Option C – Matthews & Matthews concept (as shared with the community in July 2018). Ground floor occupied by a mixture of retail tenants, spaces made available for public hire and education providers. Upstairs floor remains much as it was pre-closure.
Option D – Commercial / community use. Downstairs full commerical space (but limited to tenants providing additionality to rest of precinct arts and entertainment centre), upstairs the same as Option C.
Option E – Commercial / community / educational use. Same as Option C except some of the public spaces are permanently let to education providers for purposes that are aligned with wider precinct activities.
Option F – Full commercial use. Full building is permanently let to commercial tenants who would offer additionality to the wider precinct.
Option G – Full public use. Full building is divided into spaces available for public hire.

Welcoming and Alive
The Matthews & Matthews Ltd concept is based on a Story of Light; to allow a re-opening of the place, to bring back into the Hastings Municipal Buildings the light and energy of the community; as a place of creativity and innovation, which serves the community.

Combining an understanding of the history of the building and its significance, guided by the conservation plan, the concept aims to retain and reveal the original component parts in the way the building is used as a contemporary performing arts hub.

Laneways connecting spaces
The proposal includes a plan for a laneway between the Opera House Theatre and Municipal Building – until today little more than an access alley – to take advantage of the distinctive architectural and urban qualities of the space.
Arrival – The Drama of the Entrance and Stair
Based on a careful understanding of the original design, the concept aims to recover the clarity of the building’s spatial arrangement and the use of light wells and lanes that historically provided light to the interior.
Looking back provides opportunities to move forward – to remove some of the additions and alterations made over time, where light wells have been in-filled, double height spaces lost and the clarity of circulation obscured.
Work Shop, Performance, Studio and Exhibition Spaces
Matthews & Matthews Ltd have engaged with the community and responded to ideas about what people would like to see in a community performing arts hub. Double height spaces provide places of welcome, dramatic and generous places for art, performance and collaboration.
Cultural Spaces and Quiet Places ‘Carved from Light’
By highlighting local stories from Kahungunu and Aotearoa in the way the building is used and activated it is hoped to re-engage the collective memories that already exist through this place, and for these memories and knowledge to be handed onto the youth and coming generations.

Preferred option

Based on this, Option E: A combination of commercial, community and educational use most closely aligns with the project’s goals and is council’s preferred option for the future of the Municipal Building. This option also aligns with the available funding for the project already set aside within council budgets and debt forecasts, and has been the subject of previous community engagement.

This operating model fits with the Long Term Plan and can be achieved through a mixed model of commercial tenancy, public use and spaces let permanently to education providers for purposes aligned with wider precinct activities.

In this mixed-use model, possible uses for the Municipal Building could include:

  • Conferencing
  • Corporate functions
  • Weddings
  • Hospitality (bars, restaurants, café)
  • Exhibition space
  • Performing arts school
  • Culinary school
  • Ticketing office
  • Retailers that showcase the Hawke’s Bay region
  • Tourism
  • Artist in residence
  • Meetings
  • Symposiums
  • Cocktail functions
  • Dinners
  • Ballroom
  • Cabaret
  • Studio spaces
  • Theatre
  • Rehearsal spaces
  • School events
  • Community gatherings

The vision enabled

The redevelopment of the Municipal Building is an important part of the revitalisation of Hastings City Centre and council’s ‘City Vibrancy Plan’. The building’s development has the potential to bring economic and social benefits. It will be a centre for activities and events the whole community can enjoy, it will be a place we can all be part of with a shared sense of belonging. A vibrant hub in the City will also have a positive impact for the commercial sector.

Ground Floor
This could include a mix of retail tenants, with the newly created additional spaces made available for public hire and educational providers.

First Floor
The structural integrity will be retained (including the heritage assembly hall/ballroom and smaller function/meeting spaces) and made available for public hire.

Giving the community, visitors, businesses and Mana Whenua multiple reasons to be proud of the buildings themselves as well as the activities that take place in them – Hawke’s Bay Opera House 2019-2021 Strategic Plan

Linked investment

Together with the new 35-room apartment-style hotel to be built in the vacant building adjacent to the Opera House Precinct, Hastings now has in place a significant component of its broader City Centre Strategy.


Hastings District Council has been successful in funding the precinct redevelopment in accordance with what was previously outlined in the Long Term Plan.

Council funding of $23.8m, along with a further $9.5m of funding from external funders, has enabled the required earthquake strengthening work on the Opera House and Municipal Building. Also included is the upgrade of those facilities and the construction of the new building on the site of the former Plaza. Council has also taken the opportunity to complete asset renewal while the buildings have been closed.

These works have been supported by key external funders (Lottery Grants Board – Significant Project Fund and the Environment and Heritage Fund).

There is currently a capital funding gap of $2m for the full redevelopment option for the Municipal Building to be delivered. Council is confident this can be closed through alternative funding sources and community fundraising initiatives. There is also the option of scaling back the delivery of the full architectural concepts as required.  Council will not be asking community for additional funding through rates.

What do you think?

Come and view the preferred option for the Municipal Building and what it means for Hastings at the Opera House precinct information booth.

When: Saturday 7 September until Saturday 14 September
Where: Auaha, Hastings City Art Gallery