Tauranga city councillors have been urged to tread carefully about the location for the planned museum after it was revealed that tangata whenua preferred the Cliff Rd option.

Council chief executive Garry Poole interrupted debate yesterday about whether an architect needed to be engaged before the council decided on which option should be chosen for a new library and museum.

The three main options currently undergoing analysis were a stand alone museum on Cliff Rd, a stand alone new library in Willow St, or a joint museum and new library in Willow St.

Mayor Greg Brownless questioned the cost of engaging an architect, saying he was concerned about the amount of money spent on other council projects that had failed to eventuate.

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The issue arose at yesterday's meeting of the council's city transformation committee.

Mr Poole urged the council not to get distracted on whether an architect was needed or not, but to focus on whether the options were viable. Staff should be charged with coming up with an answer.

He said the council needed to be sensitive because of strong feedback it had received from tangata whenua who favoured Cliff Rd.

Heart of the City director Adele Hadfield said they were engaging with all stakeholders including tangata whenua on the options.

Project leader Carole Canler said it was really important that things were done by the book in order to access non-council funding for the museum.

"Otherwise we have a business case that is not really a business case."

Committee chairman Larry Baldock said the Government required that the council spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing the business case.

Council staff were working with an economist on recommendations for museum admissions, with a report due back next month.

The disclosure followed concern among councillors that they were being asked to adopt a strategy for admissions. The strategy was general free entry, high profile cash and electronic donation sites in the museum, and high quality tourism products for free and independent travellers, package tourists and cruise ship passengers.

Councillor Gail McIntosh said they needed to know how much city ratepayers would be putting into the museum and their willingness to pay.

Mr Baldock queried the 15 "profit centres" proposed for the museum and whether they would be left with a museum or a commercial activity. He was assured they would not displace traditional museum activities.

Money-making ideas to offset museum operating costs
- Museum retail and online sales
- Food and beverage
- Tourism information and services
- Ticketed exhibitions and major public events
- Overnight learning programmes
- Lifelong learning programmes and heritage research centre
- Early childhood story centre
- Venue hire and birthday parties
- School learning programmes, private event hire and social programmes