The Foxton Historical Society is determined to save the Old Court House and is planning a membership drive to ensure it and all its archives will be preserved for generations to come.
"We are committed to attempt to secure this building," said Jenny Lundie on behalf of the Foxton Historical Society.
To do that it needs money, ideas to future-proof its collections and lots of new members.
The society received a letter from Horowhenua District Council in January terminated its lease on the Old Court House at the end of June 2020. It has occupied the building since 1979.
The Old Court House is full of material collected over a long time and the society gets regular enquiries about histories of people who lived there in the past.
It has a rich depository of old newspapers, photos and historical items about Foxton, and the society's committee is working on a strategy to safeguard the use of the Old Court House, and make its collections more accessible to people.
A special AGM was held last week with members turning up to find out what the next steps will be.
"A lot of work needs to be done," said Jenny Lundie on behalf of the society, of which longtime stalwart Tony Hunt is now the patron.
"We want to retain the museum and now that the building is being put up for sale we need to see the paper work related to the expressions of interest the council is asking for, before we can do anything."
She said there are questions about the status of the land, the archives building at the back and the status and ownership of the train that sits in front.
According to MAVTech Chair and FHS member Jim Harper, who is assisting the society's committee on various planning and administrative issues, the council is claiming the building itself, and also the train engine in front, the archives building at the back as well as the memorial rose garden as part of the sale deal.
"We also need to understand what 'maintaining the facade' means as that is one of the conditions any new owner of the building will have to abide by.
"I think it is really important that this building as part of the town's settler history is protected. This part of our history is slowly disappearing and we believe this building is worth preserving."
The society has a new chairman, Te Kenehi Teira, who is deputy chief executive (Kāihautu) Māori Heritage of Heritage New Zealand and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. He said there are a lot of great stories to be told about Foxton's history and settlement.
"The Courthouse building is the ideal site for the society to mount displays and provide information that can connect residents and visitors with our amazing local history."
The court house was build in 1929, replacing an older building. The interior is still highly original with its moulder plaster ceilings, woodwork and furniture, including the judge's chair.
Jenny said Te Kenehi has the skills and the contacts to help them talk to the right people.
"We have some young people on board and will be working on a new concept for the display of the society's collections. They have some great ideas, such as using the main court room for mock trials, 19th century style."
In the next few months Historical Society members will be busy with working bees, fundraising activities and a membership drive as well as finding storage for the collections that need to move out of the building eventually.
The building will need repair as well as earthquake strengthening and that was estimated at $139,000 and that does not include contingencies and compliances in an 2014 report by OPUS, Jim said. All this is on top of the purchase price.
"The Foxton Historical Society has a strong connection with the building and will submit a proposal to reoccupy the building through the upcoming public process," Harper said.
Much is uncertain for now. Members are tossing up ideas, including one of forming a charitable trust to secure funding for the earthquake proofing of the building.
"Trusts have an much easier time getting funding," said Jenny.
The Annual General Meeting will be held on March 7 at 7pm in the Masonic Village Hall. The society is hoping for a big turn-out and a willingness to come and help and sign up as a member.