Iwi looks to Hastings for artefacts display

By Simon Hendery

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Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana at Civic Square, Hastings, the site for a proposed iwi innovation centre. Photo/Paul Taylor
Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana at Civic Square, Hastings, the site for a proposed iwi innovation centre. Photo/Paul Taylor

Ngati Kahungunu has abandoned long-held plans to build a multi-million dollar innovation centre in Napier and is instead eying a similar development in the Hastings Civic Square.

The centre would display valuable iwi artefacts including toanga caught up in a storage shortage issue at Napier's MTG, and could go some way to solving the MTG's space problems, the iwi says.

Napier City Council plans to build a permanent off-site museum and gallery storage facility to accommodate part of the MTG's collection after discovering it did not have enough space to store the entire collection on-site.

The council has faced criticism over the storage problem, which came to light after the MTG was opened last September following an $18 million upgrade to the former Hawke's Bay Museum and Gallery.

Maori toanga account for about 45 per cent of the value of the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust's 100,000 item collection, currently housed at the MTG and in temporary off-site storage.

Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said the planned Hastings innovation centre would enable the regular display of more taonga, alongside examples of modern innovation.

The iwi authority was open to the possibility the facility could also be a permanent storage facility for toanga from the trust's collection, although the idea had yet to be discussed with the Napier and Hastings councils.

Plans for an innovation centre have been on the iwi's books for several years.

Last year its asset holding company committed to provide up to $1 million of funding for the project and the iwi spent $190,000 on planning and feasibility studies.

In 2012 Ngati Kahungunu had concept plans drawn up for an innovation centre in Ahuriri, Napier but over recent months had been in top-level talks with Hastings District Council over plans to include the facility as part of an upgrade to Civic Square, which includes the Hastings library and art gallery.

The iwi authority had now formally agreed not to proceed with the Ahuriri plan and to instead explore with Hastings District Council the possibility of a Civic Square development, Mr Tomoana said.

"We're looking at building a $5 million to $10 million facility there.

"We're now looking at joint-venturing with the council to do that," he said.

"We're looking at displaying a whole lot of the Maori artefacts currently held in storage and Ngati Kahungunu would make provision for the storage of the toanga collection if there was agreement with Napier City and Hastings District councils but we haven't had those discussions yet."

Hastings council has budgeted $7 million for the redevelopment of Civic Square which it wants to see become the "vibrant hub in the heart of Hastings".

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the council and Ngati Kahungunu had held "pretty significant conversations" over recent months and the council was enthusiastic about including the innovation centre as part of the Civic Square redevelopment, although no deal had been signed.

"In principle we agree but we haven't taken it to the next level," he said.

Last week Hastings councillors were briefed by Napier City Council on plans to build a museum storage facility at the council's Onekawa works depot.

Mr Yule said he would be writing to Napier City seeking more details on the plans which his council wanted to ensure were the best option.

"If the Ngati Kahungunu innovation centre goes ahead that might be a really good long term solution for the [MTG] storage shortfall and we're just putting that on the table," he said.

"We're saying in the long term we need to really think about how it's displayed, where it's stored and about maximising viewing of what is a significant resource and a highly sought-after collection."

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said if Ngati Kahungunu wanted to display and store their toanga at their new facility "that's just a matter of working out how it happens".

Mr Dalton said a large portion of the MTG's Maori collection came from outside the region and the council believed it had "an eminently suitable storage option" for the long term which would include making toanga accessible for viewing.

"It's not a Napier versus Hastings thing. It's our responsibility but we want Hastings to be very comfortable with what we're doing."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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