As the annual mid-summer musings about building magnificent stadiums and museums along the Auckland CBD waterfront rumbles on, could I suggest an ark might be the most appropriate. Or a giant statue of King Canute.

The thought, for instance, of storing a cache of the city's treasures atop a low peninsular of discarded gas company slag, likely to disappear beneath the sea if global warning predictions prove true, seems, shall we say, short-sighted.

Admittedly, having built our city on a field of active volcanoes means no site can be considered particularly safe. Still, to choose Wynyard Point as a good place to store historic relics would suggest we have learnt nothing.


Not like the guardians of that great waterfront folly, Te Papa, the Wellington-based national museum, who got a hell of a wake-up shock when the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes destroyed large swathes of Christchurch.

The museum board realised it could have been a direct hit on their institution instead and began a search for additional storage out of the earthquake zone. Somewhere to store at least parts of the national patrimony in preparation for when the Big One does eventually strike.

The urgency was emphasised in a December 2011 post-election briefing paper to Te Papa's minister.

After the Christchurch earthquakes "the cost of insurance has risen dramatically ... Physical and financial risks need to be reassessed ... as will options for mitigating the risk of holding all collections in Wellington."

By then, Auckland art consultant Hamish Keith and Waterfront Auckland chairman Bob Harvey had created the Te Papa North Planning Group with grand visions of a Te Papa North museum sited on, of all places, the Wynyard Point tank farm.

They'd enrolled the support of both Michael Houlihan, Te Papa's CEO and Jenny Harper, director of the Christchurch art gallery. I recall being all in favour of a plan to finally share a part of the national collection with the country's largest population centre. Particularly as the government would be funding it.

Nothing much happened after that until the July 2013 Seddon earthquake once more rattled the Te Papa board into prioritising the need "to reduce seismic risk to the national collections by seeking an additional location" for some of them.

Houlihan declared that "Ensuring the safety of the national collections is a high priority for Te Papa." He said "the importance of this has been highlighted by the recent earthquakes in Wellington. GNS Science has been commissioned to scope locations that offer reduced risk from natural hazards."


This time Auckland Mayor Len Brown, campaigning for re-election, was quick to suggest the perfect site would be Hayman Park in his old bailiwick of Manukau City. Auckland would provide the land, central Government the rest.

Within weeks it seemed like a done deal. By early September 2013, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson and Mayor Brown jointly confirmed an Auckland branch of Te Papa would be built in Manukau providing storage and exhibition and education spaces.

But more than five years on, we're still waiting. Finlayson failed to deliver. A $40 million proposal by Te Papa was rejected in the 2015 Budget round. Jump forward two years and the Te Papa board hadn't given up. Te Papa was plugging "advanced plans" in its briefing paper to incoming Prime Minister and new arts minister Jacinda Ardern after the 2017 election.

Since then there has been on-going consultation between Te Papa, the local community, Auckland museums and Auckland Council. Te Papa will present a new business plan in time for the May Budget.

I have no idea how high above sea level, Hayman Park is, but being inland, it must be less vulnerable to the one natural calamity we can predict, sea level rise, than Wynyard Quarter. So I'm for the Manukau site.

There's plenty more going for it as well. First, it's immediately available, and won't cost Auckland ratepayers a thing. Also, building an important cultural institution out of the CBD will reverse the current Auckland obsession of all roads beginning and ending on a narrow strip of reclaimed CBD seafront.

All we need now is a scary earthquake under the Beehive to shake the Cabinet into funding it.