Elected officials have canned a plan to build a museum in Tauranga - again.

Yesterday's decision was a victory for some, who saw the $55.7 million museum proposal (ratepayer contribution $20.7m) as a symbol of a council lacking in financial discipline.

For others, it was a deflating end to 18 months or more of work, and a waste of the $1m + ratepayer dollars poured into exploring the idea, and a repeat of the 2007 waterfront museum failure.

The atmosphere in the council chamber was tense as an overflowing public gallery watched the at-times dramatic debate that led to the seven-to-four vote.

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By that point, the gallery had already seen cost-cutting councillors vote six-to-five against putting $43.2m towards building a new central library.

The vote prompted a brief chorus of "shame, shame" from a few observers.

A thread of hope remained for library supporters, however, as councillors then agreed to put the library issue aside to see if an alternative proposal could be worked up over the next couple of days.

No such lifeline was thrown to the museum.

Newly elected councillor John Robson made an unsuccessful attempt to have the council put capital funding of $15m aside, with a reduced operating budget and no commitment to a standalone facility, or Cliff Rd as the location.

Robson said he was surprised it garnered only two other votes, because it would have allowed the museum supporters time to re-evaluate the plan.

Dr Kelly Barclay, co-chairman of the Tauranga Moana Museum Trust, said he saw hope in those three votes when added to the four votes for the museum outright.

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He said there might have been enough willingness to commit the money to keep the proposal alive if only the council had spent a little longer talking about the issue.

Work to capture the stories of Tauranga's history would continue in spite of the decision, he said.

"We can't afford to wait."

Councillors on both sides of the vote agreed on one thing: The museum issue was not going anywhere.

"We will be here again in three years' time, in four years' time," said Steve Morris, who voted against the proposal.

"As sure as God made little green apples we will be back here again, and we will have wasted what is now over a million dollars," said Larry Baldock, who has been a passionate museum advocate.

Baldock called the 18 months he spent shepherding the proposal through the committee process - consultant report by consultant report - "one of most horrible years of my life".

Views from the chamber

Larry Baldock

"Let us not, in the words of Pink Floyd, put another brick in the wall of shame that has been built by too many aborted projects in the past."

Steve Morris

"You want a museum, I want a museum, but it will not happen like this. You will alienate the community by going against their wishes. Take your penance and move on."

Terry Molloy

"It's déjà vu for me. Ten years ago we could have had a $25m museum on the waterfront that would have been iconic. But for the very same reasons we voted it down then, we're voting it down now."

Rick Curach
"You're flogging a dead horse. The horse died on the day of the byelection result ... Given the horse is dead we need to put it to rest."

Council hopes to halve rates increase

The writing was on the wall for the controversial museum proposal from the start of yesterday's meeting when the council indicated it would not just trim but slash spending from its draft budget for the next decade.

In a close decision, Tauranga City councillors voted to aim for a "preferred" rates increase cap of 2 per cent plus CPI after growth - the same cap formula they voted to dump in February.

The cap would bring the average rates increase for next year down from 9.7 per cent to 3.8 per cent, and keep the increase under 4 per cent for each year of the 10-year plan.

The council will continue to review the projects and funding in its plan over the next few days.