Reopening of opera house breathes new life into the Hastings arts community

Sean Hogan
Source: 1News

The arts will return to the heart of Hastings this weekend as the city's opera house opens its doors to the public after nearly six years of earthquake strengthening. 

The $17 million project, funded largely by ratepayers, has seen the century-old building brought up to code but it's been a painstaking process. 

"The acoustics in here are beautiful. Before anyone was in here before my sound check today, I had a little bit of a sing and I just thought, 'wow'," says singer Taisha Tara. 

Taisha is one of the performers who will be on stage as the newly christened Toitoi Arts and Events Centre opens. 

Built in 1915, the Lyric Theatre was closed in 2014 due to its earthquake vulnerability. Demolition was initially proposed but thousands of public submissions saved it.

"What we heard from everyone is that the community needed a place to perform - to dance, to sing, to enjoy, to just have a great time and bring the community together and we needed to get on and strengthen it," says Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst. 

The heritage building's art nouveau interior was carefully restored while the original walls and floors have been encased in concrete. 

There are 500,000 tiles on the floor of the foyer which had to be removed, with identical replacements found in Australia. 

A specialised tiler was flown in from Auckland to recreate the mosaic. 

It's hoped the redesigned multi-purpose centre will recharge the Hastings CBD. 

"We've seen new business come to town. They are bringing hospitality, food and all sorts of young people to town so its transformational for Hastings," says Mayor Hazlehurst. 

This community and the arts are ready for the spotlight again with their grand opening this weekend.