Stage two of Whangārei's Hihiaua Cultural Centre is set to begin with the trust behind the award-winning centre buying two buildings from Whangārei District Council to enable its expansion plans to progress.
The trust, which has already developed stage one of the cultural centre on Whangārei's Hihiaua Peninsula and the Town Basin, last week sold 56 Herekino St and 197 Lower Dent St (the old A'Fare building) for a price of $1. As well, the trust was given a lease of the land the buildings are on for peppercorn rental after a resolution by the council.
The two buildings have a combined valuation of $410,039 and the council voted that the book value of the buildings be treated in essence as an additional grant to the trust.
The trust completed the first stage of its ambitious cultural centre project in 2020 and that year it won the Public Architecture Award and the prestigious John Scott Award for Public Architecture- the country's premier award for public architecture - at the New Zealand Architecture Awards.
The Māori education and exhibition centre, occupies a converted boatshed alongside the Hātea River, and comprises the Whare Toi, accommodating arts and craft activities, and Whare Waka, home to a collection of waka.
Trust chairman Ryan Welsh said buying the two buildings, and the accompanying long-term peppercorn lease of the land, means planning and fundraising for stage two would now increase pace.
Welsh said the centre is designed to be an inclusive place for all, while highlighting Māori arts and culture.
The building at 56-58 Herekino St forms part of stage 1 of the Cultural Centre also known as the Waka Shed.
Meanwhile, 197 Lower Dent St, commonly known as the A 'Fare building, would be renamed Manaaki and form part of stage two.
The Town Basin, with the Loop Walkway, sculpture trail, Rolling Ballclock, Hundertwasser centre, playgrounds and other attractions had become a great destination for locals and visitors alike.
Welsh said the cultural centre would further enhance that and add to the wonderful experiences there for all, with a key focus on Māori culture.
''The most important thing (with buying the buildings) is this whole (Hihiaua Peninsula) area is really able to fulfil something that's been proposed for a long, long time,'' he said.
''It allows us to complete the vision that we have been working on for decades. It might not be the final piece of the jigsaw, but it is a significant part of the plans.''
Trust member Janet Hetaraka said when the Waka and Wave sculpture was erected on Hihiaua Peninsula as a Millennium project, some people questioned why it was built somewhere so out of the way.
But, Hetaraka said, that was really the first step in getting the cultural centre plans underway, with stage one now complete and stage two expected to make it an exciting, event and action packed cultural precinct that would be a wonderful asset for the district.
It would also create jobs and offer locals and visitors a unique experience. It had spaces for working and holding events, exhibitions and meetings.
''It won't be a hongi and haka site, it will be about participation and experiencing culture and art like you cannot do elsewhere.''
Welsh said hopefully the entire centre would be ready in two to two-and-a-half years.
He said anybody who was questioning the worth of selling the buildings to the trust, or of the wider cultural centre plan, should ''come down and have a look. Come and have a talk to us and check out what we are doing. This is for everybody and everybody will benefit from it.''
The council said the trust has a goal to build a contemporary, Māori precinct where people can live, learn and play while rebuilding our cultural capacity and capability.
''The Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust's vision is for a unique and iconic, world class centre of excellence to preserve, create, display and promote Māori arts and culture. For at least a decade and probably longer, the council has worked in conjunction with the Hihiaua Cultural Centre Trust to support or promote this development,'' the council said.
Support has also been provided at a central government level in the form of Provincial Growth Funding of $1,075,000 and a grant of $224,858 to partner with the council to undertake commemorations for Tuia – Encounters 250.
It said selling the buildings, with the peppercorn lease, would enable council to rationalise the current conflicts of ownership. It also provides staff certainty as to council's desired outcomes and a mandate to support the trust.
''It enables the trust to continue raising capital for stage two, providing an early opportunity to add a commercial component to the project through the utilisation of the A'Fare building. This option is the most likely to satisfy the multiple outcomes of all parties.''
For more information go to hihiaua.org.nz or on Facebook www.facebook.com/hihiauaculturalcentre/