Tauranga City Council has been urged to drop the proposal to build a museum in the downtown's civic heart and instead stick to the original site on Cliff Rd near The Elms.

Retired architect Rob Benge argued that a downtown museum would likely only be an exhibition centre and not a proper museum.

He said the city had 30,000 historic items stored in a warehouse at Mount Maunganui. "It would not be possible or sensible to move these to a CBD site with very high land values."

Mr Benge, speaking for amateur historian Rob Hicks, told councillors earlier this month that the Cliff Rd site could accommodate everything under one roof.


Quoting a pre-2010 Tauranga City museum brochure, he said the museum should showcase regional uniqueness with an architecturally inspired flagship building in a prominent and meaningful location.

"Cliff Rd fits that description perfectly...the museum should not get tangled up with a grandiose CBD scheme that may take years to stage build."

Mr Benge was one of the submitters to the council's $71 million civic heart project which included spending $64 million on a council administration building plus $400,000 on feasibility studies for a museum, performance centre and new library.

He quoted Tauranga heritage consultant John Coster who said that museums collected, displayed and cared for objects, and needed space for all these functions. The last museum brief called for a 3000 sq m building.

Fund raising would be easier if the museum was a stand-alone building with its own unique regional character, and not part of a monolithic downtown commercial complex, he said.

"The Cliff Rd site would sit as the central hub to a historic triangle comprising The Elms, the Monmouth Redoubt and the Mission Cemetery. It would grandstand over the historic waterfront, relate to Mount Maunganui over the bridge and, more importantly, obtain a view shaft through to Mauao, the sacred mountain at the entrance to Tauranga Harbour," he said.

Cruise ship passengers could access the museum from water taxis berthing at Dive Crescent, riding up in a lift to a bridge straddling the railway line.

Mr Benge said a design concept could be delivered through a competition run under New Zealand Institute of Architects' design competition guidelines.

Another submitter, Dr Kelly Barclay representing the Tauranga Moana Museum Trust, said there was the opportunity to fund over 80 per cent of capital costs from outside sources, but there was no time to waste.

"We have strong support from local MPs and the Minister of Culture and Heritage who are urging locals to get on with it."

The trust backed the downtown location, saying the museum could be a flagship within the redeveloped civic heart and help establish a cultural precinct in the inner city. A feasibility study would assess the placement of a museum within the civic block.

The Tauranga Historical Society also welcomed the proposal to include a museum in the civic heart, saying it would provide suitable conditions for the storage and display of the heritage collection.

Decision day for proposed civic heart redevelopment
When: September 6, 9am to noon
Where: Council Chambers, Willow St
Number of submitters: 578