Ōtaki Civic Theatre refurbishment
A major upgrade of the Ōtaki Civic Theatre has been brought forward, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
Council will invest an additional $351,000 to the project, taking the total value of the upgrade to $851,000. The six-month refurbishment works began in October 2020 and are scheduled to be finished at the end of March 2021.
Works include replacing the roof, upgrading the toilets, partially rebuilding the stage, replacing damaged seating and flooring, and repairing the exterior of the building and gutters. While the building is not rated as earthquake-prone, Council will continue to plan for future earthquake strengthening work.
The well-used Ōtaki Civic Theatre hosts a range of events including musicals and plays hosted by the Ōtaki Players Society, the Māoriland Film Festival, concerts and school productions. Works are scheduled in a way so planned shows and events can continue.
The benefits of refurbishing the Civic Theatre go deeper into the Ōtaki community than just an improved building. Supported by a Provincial Growth Fund grant, Council will be working hard to deliver positive social outcomes to the community. Council will use the combined buying power of the Government grant and its own contribution to deliver community benefits above and beyond the cost of the refurbishment. Examples of positive social outcomes we aim to generate by this project include:
- Buying local
Where possible, our contractors will use local businesses and sub-contractors.
- Employing locals
Our contractors aim to welcome local people onto their team, especially those who might have lost their job as a result of COVID-19 or who identify as Māori or Pasifika.
- Training staff
All staff working on the project will receive Site Safe training to up-skill them for future employment.
- Environmental responsibility
We are committed to reducing waste. Where possible, the project will re-use an item before replacing it. We will minimise the volume of materials sent to landfill by recycling or reusing wherever possible.
The Ōtaki Civic Theatre as we know it now is the second theatre on the Main Street site. The first theatre, known as Brights, was built by Fredrick and Arthur Bright in 1913 for the princely sum of £3000.
As one the largest theatres between Palmerston North and Wellington, it was the venue for many events from skating to flower shows, concerts and balls, while still serving as the community’s picture theatre. Early films were silent; the first talking film played at the theatre in 1929, and drew such a large crowd that people had to be turned away.
Tragedy struck when fire completely destroyed Brights Theatre on Christmas Eve 1935.
Three years later, in 1938, the Borough Council rebuilt the Ōtaki Civic Theatre. Initially, it was used mainly as a picture theatre, but over the years also hosted a range of other events, including patriotic concerts during the war years such as concerts by the world-famous Otaki-born opera singer Inia Te Wiata.
Over the following decades, the theatre was leased to a range of groups to show films; Kerridge Odeon Ltd (1940s to 1960s), D M Eteveneaux (1970s) and Frank Williamson (1980s). The last film, ‘Parenthood’, was shown there in March 1990 and, after being used by local churches for a year, the theatre was leased to the Ōtaki Players Society in 1991. Since that time, the Ōtaki Players have staged more than 50 productions in the theatre, attracting in excess of 20,000 people to their performances.
Ōtaki Civic Theatre foyer, c1945
Ōtaki Players brochure, 1991
Ōtaki Civic Theatre, c1945