Napier’s Mayor claiming the cost to ratepayers of re-rebranding the Napier War Memorial would be $142,600 is disingenuous.
The facility had been the “Napier War Memorial” from its opening and dedication in 1957, until its 1995 refurbishment put the Roll of Honour and Eternal Flame inside the facility’s entrance foyer and added the word “Centre” onto the end of the title –To better indicate how it had been a multi-use facility for decades – hosting Napier social events like weddings and school balls – even the odd conference, while still maintaining its original purpose – a memorial to locals lost in conflicts around the world.
So when council management decided, without any public mandate, that the War Memorial name, Roll of Honour and Eternal flame elements all needed to go from their home of almost 60 years and be replaced by the rather bland and single-themed (but “marketing friendly”) title of “Napier Conference Centre” who paid for that rebranding?
The mayor himself?
The CEO’s morning tea fund?
No. More like the ratepayers – none of whom had requested the change.
The mayor now also claims councillors might not have had “all that information” on how returning the War Memorial name to the facility might damage it’s “marketability” and potential conference income at a recent committee meeting where restoration of the War Memorial name to all or part of the site was proposed and supported by all attending councillors, excluding the mayor.
Since then several Napier councillors have admitted to not understanding the gravity of their decision, the history of the War Memorial, or the strength of public feeling that followed, despite some even having relatives commemorated on the memorial’s plaques!
Were councillors provided with “all the information” they needed then, too?
It would appear not.
As for “marketability”, having the name “War Memorial” in the title of a building does not preclude it from having other uses.
That would be like saying the Sydney Opera House can only host operas!
I’m sure if he’d asked his recent “Big Apple” visitors, Napier’s mayor might have learned about the “War Memorial Arena” in Syracuse, New York, which just happens to be roughly the same age as Napier’s War Memorial Centre!
It is not just a war memorial, but also a concert venue, hosts ice hockey, indoor football and lacrosse games, trade shows and maybe even a conference or two!
In a last ditch effort to try and sway councillors at the next council meeting and naming vote on Monday April 9 (It’s being held at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chambers, 159 Dalton Street Napier from 3pm If you’d like to go along) Napier City Council management even hired a marketing consultant.
I wonder who footed the bill for that?
I hope it was less than $142,600…
The consultant said the words “War Memorial” had “little relevance to today’s highly competitive conference market”.
This completely misses the point.
The Marine Parade site is a War Memorial first and foremost.
That’s why it was built.
That’s why the Napier public’s donations for it were so forthcoming and how local and central government funding was guaranteed. That was its prime purpose for almost sixty years.
This insistence by a small group of council hierarchy that the War Memorial Centre can ONLY be a commercial activity OR a community venue lacks both credibility and any form of medium to long-term memory.
During those years between 1957 and 2016 the memorial and its community and commercial venue aspects have coexisted quite happily.
If the conference market is suddenly so competitive, then Napier’s conference promoters just need to up their game.
There are numerous ways “Napier War Memorial Centre” can be put to the forefront of Google search engine optimisation results for “Napier”, “New Zealand”, “Events” and “Conferences” while still maintaining the dignity and respect of a War Memorial.
On top of the Syracuse War Memorial Arena’s stage are the words, “In memory of our service veterans.”
At least the Syracuse custodians have remembered the true purpose of their facility.
Napier, its ratepayers, veterans and families of the fallen deserve better!