The French Government is making a $1 million donation to a major New Zealand military historical property project by selling a property at a big discount, a former Kiwi politician said today in Australia.
Sir Lockwood Smith, former New Zealand high commissioner to the United Kingdom and a former speaker of the House, told the NZ Property Council national conference in Melbourne this morning about the project at Le Quesnoy in France, the town liberated by New Zealand forces during World War I.
The contribution by French authorities to the planned New Zealand memorial there was significant and generous, he indicated.
Smith revealed details of how the town's former mayor's home was being purchased from the French government at a huge discount and would become part of a new memorial museum project, planned to open in November 4, 2018.
"The French government is selling it, putting a $1m donation into the project to be launched on the 99th anniversary of the storming of Le Quesnoy on November 4 this year," he said of a planned campaign to raise the profile of the project.
Herb Farrant, president of the NZ Military Historical Society, also spoke this morning at the conference, telling how the mayor's home was built in 1890 and was being sold at a big discount to its true value "because we are bringing economic development to the region."
The museum would generate around 1 million Euros a year "which is significant in the town," Farrant said.
"It is in fact a prime building for our purposes. It is a fine building, somewhat tired but structurally sound. This forms half of the museum," said Farrant, telling how he had been working on the project for two decades.
A modern new building was planned to be built beside that mayor's house, he said.
Tunnels beneath the mansion were created 300 years ago and these would be used in displays planned there, Farrant said.
Nine residential dwellings stand in a semi-circle formation near the mayor's house and these would be used for accommodation, Farrant said. These structures were maisonettes built around 1952 but did not comply with European insulation standards, but about 90 people could be accommodated in these places, he said.
Farrant said materials needed to the project could be bought at around 50 to 60 per cent of the cost in New Zealand which he indicated was a major bonus.
The museum would mark the sacrifice of 135 New Zealanders who lost their lives in the town's liberation, Farrant said coming "from the utmost ends of the earth" and both he and Smith encouraged conference delegates to consider supporting the project.
Smith said two companies were being established for the project, one focused on capital raising and the other on the property.
"We're going to need your help to do this," Smith told about 350 delegates who include engineers, developers, consultants, accountants, bankers, managers, real estate agents, leasing and real estate specialists and consultants.