Museum supporters urged to unite behind $100,000 study

By John Cousins

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Museum supporters have been urged to get behind a proposal with the potential to breath new life into Tauranga's near-defunct museum project.

They are being encouraged to send a strong message to the city council that a museum was a ''high priority'' for Tauranga.

Only nine days were left to go until submissions closed on a series of projects with the capacity to form a new civic heart in the downtown, including a $100,000 feasibility study for a new museum.

Tauranga Moana Museum Trust chairman Neil Te Kani said he felt encouraged by the move and called on museum supporters to take the opportunity to send a message to Council.

"The proposed new study is timely and recognises the growing public momentum for a museum," he said.

A Friends of the Museum organisation was being formed to enable supporters to play a more active role in the development of a museum.

Mr Te Kani said the trust had already done a lot of work on what a regional museum might look like and the kinds of things it could do to help build and inform the community.

"For example, we see it playing a major role as an education facility, drawing on the very best of the 35,000 plus items currently held in the city's Heritage Collection.

''The new museum will also provide a background canvas for our people and cultures, our stories, our enduring shared history and our outstanding natural environment and spectacular land and seascapes".

Mr Te Kani expected the trust would become heavily involved in the details of a new museum. He wanted to make sure the planning work already done to create a framework for a new museum would be put to good use.

The council was also calling for submissions on a planned $64.3 million council administration building in the downtown, a $4.28 million open space plaza surrounding the new building, $2.5 million to convert Masonic Park into a civic square, and feasibility studies for a new library and performance centre totalling $300,000.

The museum feasibility study was the first good news for a long time for the trust after a proposal last year to spend $40,000 gauging how Tauranga residents felt about the development of a museum was voted down by the council.

It would have included a question about whether ratepayers were prepared to shoulder a big chunk of the museum operating costs.

The survey was regarded as a last-ditch bid to keep the project alive and get the council to reverse its hands-off attitude towards the museum project which had largely stalled since 2007.

A troubled history
1999: Working party set up to establish museum.
2002: "Sluggish" working party overhauled.
2005: A museum cantilevered across the downtown waterfront is announced.
2007: Plan dropped after an election fought on the location dumped half the council.
2008: Museum Steering Group established after council opts for "community-led" project. 2010: Tauranga Moana Museum Trust formed to build the museum.
2015: Funding for $40,000 museum public opinion survey defeated
2016: Council proposes $100,000 museum feasibility study

- Bay of Plenty Times

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