Work to make gallery move successful gone in night

By Zaryd Wilson

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SAFE AND SOUND: Sarjeant Gallery operations manager Teresa Toy and senior curator Greg Anderson said staff spent hours shifting artworks upstairs before flood waters entered the Taupo Quay premises. PHOTO/ BEVAN CONLEY
SAFE AND SOUND: Sarjeant Gallery operations manager Teresa Toy and senior curator Greg Anderson said staff spent hours shifting artworks upstairs before flood waters entered the Taupo Quay premises. PHOTO/ BEVAN CONLEY

The Wanganui Chronicle is marking the one-year anniversary of the June 2015 floods with a series of articles all week, going back to those who suffered in the flood and finding out how their lives have changed one year on.

The chances were so slim. The Sarjeant Gallery moved into a temporary site on Taupo Quay in May 2014. Just for about five years while its famous Queen's Park building was being upgraded. But just over a year after the move, a one-in-100-years flood swept through the building.

"We knew that when [the river] got to a certain level then we have to start being concerned about at this end of the river," senior curator Greg Anderson said.

"Part of our preparation in moving down here to Taupo Quay from Queen's Park was an awareness we were moving into an area which could one day flood."

The gallery had an emergency plan. It was about 3.30pm when they put the plan into action. "We were able to move all the art works and the majority of the shop stuff and equipment out of harm's way long before the flood actually took place," Mr Anderson said.

The entire staff were on deck and after shifting everything upstairs, they left the building about 7.30pm.

"Then it was just a question of waiting to see how bad it actually got," Mr Anderson said. "No one was quite aware of how significant the outcome would be."

In the end the water and silt made it all the way through the gallery, ruining the flooring and walls.

It was Thursday before staff could get back in.

"Our staff were put to work on the various elements of the council relief effort. So some were on the phones, others packing food parcels. Basically we were on hand to fulfil any kind of requirement.

"The staff worked constantly, as did all the council staff. It was a pretty heroic effort."

Sarjeant on the Quay was closed until September for repairs.

"We'd put a lot of effort into making this place successful, then it was all over in a night," Mr Anderson said.

"So we had to come back from that, but that's nothing compared to the magnitude of those individuals and smaller businesses around here who had to come back from that or didn't have the wherewithal to do it.

"All things considered, we got off relatively lightly."

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- Wanganui Chronicle

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