Auckland consulting company Horwath HTL has been appointed to conduct a feasibility study into a proposed performing arts centre for Wanaka.

The feasibility study got under way in Wanaka last week with a series of focus groups. There are hopes an announcement about the way forward can be made by September.

A group of local arts supporters and philanthropists behind the proposal are raising $140,000 for the study.

Group spokesman Michael Sidey said it was making progress and had a funding application in with Creative New Zealand.

The community-initiated proposal surfaced last year when a delegation of supporters made a submission to the Queenstown Lakes District Council 10-year plan, seeking a proportional share of $52million in long-term funding for performing arts centres.

At the time, there were concerns all the money might be earmarked for the $120million Manawa cultural and community centre being developed jointly by the council and Ngai Tahu.

The Wanaka group is keen to build a performing arts centre that can seat more than the Lake Wanaka Centre (330 people) and host full ballet troupes and orchestras.

Mr Sidey said the Wanaka arts group had been encouraged when community services manager Dr Thunes Cloete supported the concept of proportional long-term arts funding for Wanaka.

Whether the centre actually went ahead, and where, was a “long, long, way ahead”.

The group did not intend to broach site possibilities until the feasibility study was completed, Mr Sidey said.

It had noted warnings from the Wanaka Community Board that groups wanting to develop community buildings must get the council and board on side right from the start.

Community board deputy chairman Ed Taylor and councillor Quentin Smith both said there were “lessons to be learned” from the Wanaka Community Hub situation, which saw the hub trust struggling to repay $800,000 in debts after construction had been completed.

The board agreed to convert a $500,000 loan to a grant, to help the trust repay its debts and contribute to the mediated resolution of a relationship breakdown between the hub and its tenants.

Mr Sidey said the Wanaka arts centre group had proposed a big project and had kept Mayor Jim Boult, chief executive Mike Theelen, and Dr Cloete in the loop from the beginning.

The Wanaka arts centre group also included Wanaka Community Board member Chris Hadfield, who had agreed to be a point of contact with the council, Mr Sidey said.

“Unless we get proportional funding, this thing won’t fly.”