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Top heritage building not safe yet

The fate of Auckland’s historic St James theatre could be in the Government’s hands, Labour’s Arts, Culture and Heritage spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

The future of the Category 1 building, which has twice been damaged by fire, will be determined over the next few months.

“It’s estimated the restoration will cost between $60 million and $70 million.

“Auckland Council has partnered with Auckland Notable Properties Trust to develop a salvage plan and come to the party with $15 million.

“The restoration plan developed by the Trust represents the best opportunity to see the theatre restored. But even with a generous contribution from the owners and others, there is still a funding shortfall.

"Unfortunately Heritage Minister Maggie Barry seems disinterested in the situation. A letter I wrote to her pointing out the urgency of the situation was met with a one sentence response - she had noted my comments.

“The doors of the St James were always going to be shut in March for significant remedial work to begin, but if the remaining funding needed for the restoration is not found, we risk the doors remaining closed and the theatre mothballed.

“Auckland Council is to be congratulated on the work it has done to save this heritage building, but it can’t do it alone.

“There are options available to the Government to assist, including opening up the criteria for existing funding pools available for cultural infrastructure. Even a conversation with those working to save the building would be a good start.

“The St James deserves to be preserved. It holds a special place in many Aucklanders’ memories. The Government needs to come to the party, before we lose this beautiful building and the team who are ready and waiting to save it,” Jacinda Ardern says.