Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced $12 million of government funding for the theatre in November 2019.

From the Momentum Waikato Annual Report 2020 - see full report in PDF.

The main challenge the Waikato Regional Theatre project was working through at the time of the last Momentum Waikato Annual Report was securing financial support from central government.

That chapter finally ended in November 2019 when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced to a crowd of keen supporters in Embassy Park that the Provincial Growth Fund was putting $12 million into the construction of the theatre.

With the commitments already made by the Hamilton City Council, Waikato Regional Council and Trust Waikato, that meant we had reached the preliminary target of $69 million of our provisional budget of $74 million, allowing the project to go ‘live’.

This meant the Waikato Regional Property Trust (WRPT), the new entity that will own and oversee the operation of the theatre, was able to get underway with completing the detailed design and the procurement processes for construction.

The Trust was already evaluating three tenders for the build through Early Contractor Involvement but decided in December 2019 that the procurement process would need to be revisited ahead of a new call-out to test the market.

On learning of that move Leonard Gardner, the Chair of Momentum and CE of Foster Construction, withdrew from all theatre-related discussions by our Board, as it was possible that Fosters would be approached by the Property Trust in due course.

The Hamilton-based firm was subsequently asked to tender early in February, at which point Leonard resigned entirely from Momentum. Fosters was subsequently awarded the contract by the WRPT at the end of March, just as Covid-19 arrived.

The Level 4 Lockdown significantly slowed the required engagement with sub-contractors and suppliers needed to detail and confirm the build budget. Fosters were only able to get on to the site in June, near the end of the 2019-2020 year formally covered by this report.

While all that had been going on, we had been working with Pan Media to develop a fundraising campaign called ‘Share the Stage’ to attract the final $5 million of the theatre’s budget through offering the wider community and businesses the opportunity to donate sums of any size. This would have created a big noise in April, but the arrival of the pandemic postponed it just as it was about to launch, which was less than ideal but could have been worse in terms of timing.

Meanwhile, as required by the Heritage Act process, Heritage New Zealand had approved the plan to retain the Hamilton Hotel frontage while rebuilding everything behind it.

However, on the key archaeological matter, Heritage NZ ruled more had to be done to protect the Hua o te Atua urupaa situated on the riverbank below the site, in large part because its footprint was insufficiently defined in the city’s District Plan.

We were already engaged with mana whenua hapu Ngāti Wairere via both Nga Mana Toopu o Kirikiriroa (NaMToK) and Te Haa o Te Whenua o Kirikiriroa (THaWK) and that decision set entrain formal negotiations. In June a tapu-lifting ceremony was held on the site and some options for the way forward to resolution were tabled.

Since then, the talks have continued with the mana whenua and Heritage NZ and the culturally correct decision to move the theatre eight meters to the west has resolved the immediate issues, although some legal matters are still being resolved.

After all these unforeseen delays, we are now on track to have construction work start on the theatre site in 2021.