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Rotorua’s famous Blue Baths closed - but why?

The Baths have been closed since January 26. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

Rotorua’s famous Blue Baths has been closed for months following concerns for the 88-year-old building’s structural integrity.

But Rotorua Lakes Council and venue manager of the well-known Baths are remaining tight-lipped about details of the concerns and the building’s closure.

On Friday, Rotorua Lakes Council, which owns the building, confirmed the Baths were closed on January 26 this year to investigate concerns about the structural integrity of the building.

"Significant testing has been undertaken to better understand the situation," says a council spokeswoman.

"We are currently working with the leaseholder and will provide more information once these discussions have concluded."

Leaseholder Plenty Group’s managing director Jo Romanes declined to comment for this article.

The company has five outfits in Rotorua, including Terrace Kitchen and Eastwood Cafe.

In 1999, after 17 years of closure, the building was "painstakingly and lovingly" restored by Mike Romanes and the council, according to the Blue Baths website.

A closure letter on the door of the Blue Baths. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post.

The Blue Baths, built in 1933, is a category one heritage listed building and previously hosted weddings, comedy shows, conferences and live music.

On Monday, Local Democracy Reporting asked the council what the concerns about the structural integrity of the building were and who raised the concerns, as well as what kind of testing had been done on the building.

The council was also asked if the public was safe if they stood outside the building, whether the Plenty Group was still required to pay rent and if not how much rent had been foregone.

Local Democracy Reporting also asked how much investigations into the building’s structural integrity had cost to date; what, in broad terms, the council was discussing with the Plenty Group, whether the Baths were closed indefinitely and if the Baths had unreinforced masonry.

A council spokeswoman says: “As we said last week, we are still in discussions with the leaseholder and will provide more information about what’s happening at the Blue Baths once these discussions have concluded.

“The building has been closed to the public for safety reasons.

"[The] council is working through our options to best secure the site and ensure the surrounding area is safe."

The Baths have been closed since January 26. Photo / Andrew Warner / Rotorua Daily Post

The spokeswoman says there's no immediate risk to people standing near the building and there was "no current evidence" of unreinforced masonry.

Unreinforced masonry killed 40 people in the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes and a report for the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission recommended all unreinforced masonry buildings be improved to meet at least 67 per cent of the standard required for new buildings.

The Blue Baths building is the third major Rotorua Lakes Council building to close, along with the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre and Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa the Rotorua Museum.

Both of those buildings closed due to structural concerns relating to their ability to withstand a significant earthquake.

Council contractor Hawkins won the $17.44m construction contract for the performing arts centre last year.

Of that, about $11m was secured from external funders besides the council.

The museum was a $51.1m project, with the council contributing $15m.

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