Councillors invited to meeting on the Royal

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The South Canterbury Drama League has invited the Timaru mayor and councillors to speak at a public meeting next month about the future of the Theatre Royal.
At the Timaru District Council’s March 14 budget meeting, councillors decided not to include a $7million upgrade of the Stafford St theatre in the 2017-18 annual plan, instead deferring it be considered as part of the long-term plan review in 2018.
The move has outraged the drama league which would like the decision to be reconsidered. The league has organised a public meeting on May 8 to discuss the outcome.
South Canterbury Drama League president Kevin Foley said the league had received “many comments” about the council’s decision.
“Because of the history of the Theatre Royal in South Canterbury, the league is facilitating the meeting,” he said.
A letter provided to The Courier, which was sent to Timaru Mayor Damon Odey last week, invites him, and his councillors, to the public meeting “to discuss the council’s recent decision in respect of the Theatre Royal”.
Mr Foley said the meeting would give Mr Odey and councillors an opportunity to back up their decision.
“It will provide the rationale for your recent decision and allow you to hear, not only from people who have specific knowledge of theatre, but also from the wider community who have an interest in facilities provided by the council”, the letter says.
The meeting will be chaired by Ken McKenzie, of RSM Law.
Mr Foley said there were several points the league was keen to discuss.
“The main question of the council is what does the project going into the long-term plan actually mean?
“On the surface it could be seen to be put into the too-hard basket.”
Mr Odey could not be contacted for comment.
However, Timaru district councillor Sally Parker said she looked forward to the meeting.
“Before the meeting [on March 14] I did my research and I spoke to an expert in theatre and asked him his thoughts,” Cr Parker said.
It was her understanding the theatre’s orchestra pit was not deep enough, meaning conductors could not do their job properly.
Councillor Dave Jack said he was pleased to hear about the meeting.
“It’s good there’s been some rumblings,” Cr Jack said.
“Hopefully out of this, a group will come out of it and can start with some fundraising for the project as it will be a lot of money.”
He said he was an advocate for looking after the theatre.
“You just have to look at the show at the weekend [the league’s Alice In Wonderland]. We can’t not have the theatre but it has to be done properly.”
He said the delay would “irk” some people.
“Planning takes some time. This is public funds, ratepayers’ money.”
Other items the league wishes to discuss at the meeting include the fact the auditorium seating had been a budget item for many years and the restriction of the theatre when work is done.
Mr Foley said the league believed in “mens sana in corpore sano _ a healthy mind in a healthy body”.
“So a healthy mind by way of theatrical pursuits is just as important as a healthy body gained through sporting pursuits and it is noted that South Canterbury has excellent sporting facilities.”
The mayor had until today to contact Mr Foley with the names of the councillors who would be attending the meeting.
The public meeting will be held at The Playhouse, 98 Church St, Timaru, on May 8 at 6pm.