Significant investment from two Government funds will help reopen the Rotorua Museum, provide better care for and access to the museum's collection of taonga, and create jobs, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

The category one heritage building was closed in 2016 following a seismic assessment made after the Kaikoura earthquake.

The Rotorua Lakes Council then began developing plans and raising money for a $55 million project to bring the building up to the required standard and complete the first stage of an international scale exhibition and conference centre.

This wider project was expected to create 371 additional jobs in the region, according to modelling carried out by the council.

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The Rotorua Museum is the new recipient of two government funds to help open the heritage building. Photo / File
The Rotorua Museum is the new recipient of two government funds to help open the heritage building. Photo / File

The council had committed $15m, the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust $10m and the Lottery's significant projects fund $6m, leaving a $24m funding gap until today.

However, the new Government investment announced is made up of $15m from the Provincial Growth Fund and $5m from the Regional Culture and Heritage Fund.

Ardern and regional economic development Minister Shane Jones are in Rotorua for the occasion.

PM Jacinda Ardern in Rotorua. Photo / Stephen Parker
PM Jacinda Ardern in Rotorua. Photo / Stephen Parker

Ardern said "This iconic New Zealand landmark in the Government Gardens cultural quarter is New Zealand's most photographed building and has immense heritage value".

"The treasures the museum now holds are important for both the region and the whole country. It has been and will be again, a major tourism attraction for the city."

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today along with Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones. Photo / File
Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today along with Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones. Photo / File

Designed in the Elizabethan style, the building was built by the government in 1908 as a therapeutic bathhouse using the geothermal resources for which the city and wider region are known.

"Constructed on land gifted by Ngāti Whakaue, the building is the appropriate storehouse for many taonga and in its upgraded form will have the ability to protect them much more effectively than before," Ardern said.

Jones said, "The forced closure of the museum has been a major blow to the tourism industry, the largest employer in the city."

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"The Provincial Growth Fund investment will help bring the museum back to life for visitors and locals alike. The redevelopment will attract more visitors to the region who will stay longer and spend more money at local businesses".

The museum upgrade work aligns with the rest of the Government's tourism investment in Rotorua through the Provincial Growth Fund-funded Lakefront development and Whakarewarewa Forest development.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the announcement today meant that work could soon start to repair the building.

"Getting the museum re-opened has been a priority for myself and council and this announcement comes after months of ongoing talks with senior ministers," Chadwick said.

"Collectively we have worked very hard to secure the funding needed to re-open what has always been recognised as being of both local and national importance.

"This project will be another catalyst for significant positive economic and social outcomes for our community, supporting progress towards the district's long-term vision and we are grateful for the Government's ongoing support for our district's progress," Chadwick said.

"Along with the transformational lakefront and forest developments which have also been supported by the Government's Provincial Growth Fund, the Museum project will create jobs and provide economic benefit for our district by establishing a foundation for new business ventures to emerge."

Chadwick said it was fitting the Government chose the 111th birthday of the opening of the historic Bath House to announce its significant contribution.

"There was never any doubt for us that our museum should not be restored," she said.

"It was a matter of how we would do it and who we would need to partner with to achieve it because we knew we couldn't do it alone. We have now secured $36 million in partnership funding which will enable us to re-open our iconic taonga."

The Provincial Growth Fund has committed $133m to Bay of Plenty up to the end of June 2019.

In addition to this new funding for the Rotorua Museum, three other Regional Culture and Heritage Fund applicants have received grants totalling over $2.6m.

These three grants go to the Motutī Marae Trust Raiātea Whare Taonga Resource and Archive Centre in Hokianga, Upper Hutt's Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre Trust and the Loons Club Performing Arts Venue in Lyttelton.