Tokoroa Airfield users are furious council staff have considered demolishing an iconic 1980s movie prop tower without consulting them.
The 15-metre-high tower, which was built for a “Canadian” set movie, is a local landmark but has fallen into disrepair over the years and has been deemed a safety risk by the South Waikato District Council which owns it.
Due to high repair costs, a structural engineer’s report alone is estimated to cost between $5000 to $10,000, and, amidst ongoing safety concerns, Asset Group manager Ted Anderson has deemed demolition to be the most feasible option.
“Essentially we have inherited the construction and we have not invested in its upkeep. We need to make a call to try and rehabilitate it…or remove it,” he said.
“It does not serve any purpose at all and there is no functional reason for it.”
But during the council’s Community and Assets Committee meeting on Thursday deputy mayor Jeff Gash questioned Anderson on whether staff had actually consulted with those who use the airfield so their views could be considered by councillors before a decision was made. Anderson said they had not.
Airfield users Gordon Hudson and Bruce Simpson said they were flabbergasted.
Simpson, who has a hanger at the airfield, said the tower was an asset to the town and it had reached millions of potential visitors and investors through his Youtube channel’s RCMODELREVIEWS and XJET.
“Last time i checked my Youtube channels were close to 90 million views. This is a famous part of Tokoroa which, every day, is marketing the town to the world,” he said.
Hudson said he was particularly annoyed because he had offered to pay to fix the tower on several occasions.
“They keep saying they don’t have a budget to fix it up but I’ve said what do you want a budget for? I am prepared to pay for it,” he said.
“It is an icon, millions of people around the world have seen it. What they hell is wrong with the council?”
During the council’s meeting councillor Thomas Lee said he wanted it removed and fellow councillor Bill Machen then tried to move the motion.
But deputy mayor Jeff Gash stepped in and said consultation needed to take place first.
“At some stage not too long ago they made mention of being involved in the restoration of it. I know there are health and safety issues there but if they could be met there could be some community benefit and good will shown,” he said.
“There is precedence around the country of community groups getting involved in restoration projects. The list is endless and most of those organisation do it without funding from council, they fundraise, and I would like to see that offer made with strict conditions that yes it must meet structural engineer certification that the council will not fund and they must meet health and safety requirements.”
Councillor Marin Glucina supported Gash.
“It would be a dangerous move from the council to just go and take that down because we are going to be heaped with lots of criticism. Not giving them an opportunity would be the first one and the second one would be destroying a notable landmark,” he said.
A decision was deferred until the airfield users had been consulted.