Long-running saga over conference centre name finally ends

A long-running saga over the re-naming of Napier‘s conference centre is finally over with the council voting to return the building to it‘s original name: the Napier War Memorial Centre.

Napier Conference Centre Photo: Supplied

But in a compromise the words Napier Conference Centre will still continue to be used for marketing purposes.

That‘s despite the mayor warning that a failure to include the word ‘conference‘ in its title would cost ratepayers dearly.

The proposal to name the building the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre, was narrowly lost just by one vote, after councillor Kirsten Wise dialled into the meeting from her overseas holiday.

Campaigners celebrated the win under the watch of two burly security guards.

While previous debates on this issue have turned nasty, this time round the rabblerousers at the packed-out meeting were relatively sedate.

Opponents argued that using the word conference was too commercial and failed to honour the true purpose of the building as a memorial to fallen soldiers.

Last month all councillors, except the mayor Bill Dalton, agreed to go back to the old name.

But then an unsolicited report by council staff turned up just before the meeting warning the venue‘s viability would be put at risk if it didn‘t have conference in its title.

During yesterday‘s debate, Mr Dalton stuck to his guns.

“When overseas conference planners are looking a New Zealand conference venue … what does Napier War Memorial Centre tell them?

“It conjurs up images of a military museum or perhaps a stone obelisk.”

That didn‘t sit well with some councillors and there was nothing the security guards could do to protect the mayor from the wrath of councillor Annette Brosnan who accused the mayor of trying to manipulate the public by introducing the report to support his views.

“Referring to the content of the paper … I don‘t buy it, I won‘t be manipulated,” she said.

Mr Dalton said he was disappointed with the outcome.

“No I‘m not happy … I still think the name should be the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre. That name reflects both the history of the building and what it‘s become.”

In a compromise, a new motion was unanimously passed allowing the words “Napier Conference Centre” to be marketed within War Memorial Centre brand for business purposes.

Work was underway now to restore the Roll of Honour and eternal flame to the premises.