A $10 million museum to be built on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds will help double the 140,000 people who now visit the historic site annually.
Fundraising for the new building was launched at Government House in Wellington last night with construction expected to begin early in 2014 so the museum will be ready for the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 2015.
The formation of the Waitangi Charitable Foundation, co-chaired by Sir Don McKinnon and Sir Tumu Te Heuheu, was announced in Wellington to lead the fundraising from philanthropic public, corporate and individual sources.
Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Paraone said the fundraising was needed as the trust received no public money. Lord Bledisloe had gifted the grounds to the nation in 1932 on the condition taxpayers would not be burdened.
The trust receives lease rentals from a hotel and golf course and it owns a forest. The 60,000 international visitors to the grounds annually pay from $25 admission, but trust income was slashed in 2008 when it cut the $12 admission fee for the 80,000 New Zealanders who visit each year.
The new museum, designed by Grant Harris from HB Architecture in Whangarei, will include an education centre and there are proposals to provide travel support that would make Waitangi accessible to all young New Zealanders.
The museum will be built adjacent to the visitor centre, which is to be redeveloped as an orientation centre for the Treaty Grounds, with a new audiovisual presentation, retail shop, café, and orientation display.
Mr Paraone said the museum would showcase a large number of artefacts and taonga connected with Treaty signatories which the trust has in other museums and in private collections around New Zealand.
The museum would also enable the wider story of Maori-European contact and the ongoing development of New Zealand as a nation to be told in much more depth than was now possible, he said.
Trust CEO Greg McManus said the trust understood how important the Treaty Grounds were to the economy of the Bay of Islands and Northland.
The trust wanted to "pull its weight more" by bringing more visitors to the North, and he predicted the 140,000 annually tally of visitors could be doubled "in a short space of time".
Mr McManus said the trust would begin moves to boost Bay of Islands visitor numbers this summer.