Wellington's mayor wants to find a home for a permanent national military museum, after both the city council and the Government failed in efforts to prolong the life of Sir Peter Jackson's troubled Great War Exhibition.

The museum caught many of Andy Foster's elected colleagues unawares when it was listed on an Economic Development power point slide at a business breakfast in late November.

Some councillors aren't impressed that such a museum is being mooted when Wellingtonians have told them to "stick to their knitting". They've got a heavy weight on their shoulders with a $6.4b transport project, ageing infrastructure, and a closed central library.

The Great War Exhibition at Wellington's landmark Dominion Building was an elaborate recreation of Belgian streets and battlegrounds, and large pieces of World War I memorabilia- including artillery pieces and a tank - loaned from Jackson's personal collection.

Advertisement

At one stage there were tentative plans to use the exhibition as a pilot for the Government to acquire the building and establish a permanent National War Museum.

But the project was plagued with financial and accountability problems, delays, and a tussle over the building's lease.

The exhibitions' signature display - a painstaking recreation of Quinn's Post on Anzac Cove built by Jackson and his film-making companies - was three-and-a-half-years late in opening and only began accepting visitors in April 2018.

The exhibition closed on the first weekend of December in 2018.

Foster said the exhibition was a "great asset".

"It was very disappointing for Wellington that it had to be dismantled and I hope that there's something that can be resurrected.

"It's not about celebrating, it's about remembering, and also about recognising the people who went and served this country in quite a number of conflicts."

When asked whether Jackson would be involved in any future military museum, Foster responded with radio silence.

Advertisement
Sir Peter Jackson and then Prime Minister John Key in 2014 standing in the Dominion Museum Building ahead of the installation of the exhibition. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Sir Peter Jackson and then Prime Minister John Key in 2014 standing in the Dominion Museum Building ahead of the installation of the exhibition. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

A military museum isn't the only museum Foster would like to find a home for, he is also keen to see plans for Jackson's movie museum brought back to life.

Foster stressed a military museum was just a possibility and he wasn't currently in talks with any parties nor had any specific locations in mind.

It's unclear whether Foster's support for a military museum would extend to a financial backing or just to act more as a facilitator.

Regardless, councillor Fleur Fitzsimons was unimpressed.

"Just because there isn't direct financial investment, every hour spent by council officers in a meeting is a ratepayer investment and there's no justification for the council investing in a war museum giving the historic challenges we're facing as a city."

It "wasn't good enough" councillors had first heard about the idea after it was listed on a power point slide at a Wellington Chamber of Commerce breakfast, she said.

Mayor Andy Foster speaking at a Wellington Chamber of Commerce breakfast in November 2019. Photo / Hamish Rutherford.
Mayor Andy Foster speaking at a Wellington Chamber of Commerce breakfast in November 2019. Photo / Hamish Rutherford.

Councillor Rebecca Matthews said Wellingtonians were telling councillors to stick to their knitting and a military museum was not a priority.

"I don't think we should raise expectations that we're going to do things that we're unlikely to do and so the question I would have is what support would there be for this around the council table? I haven't really seen an appetite not only from Wellingtonians, but also from councillors themselves - they were surprised to see it in there."

Economic Development portfolio leader councillor Diane Calvert agreed it wasn't a priority but the door shouldn't be closed on any conversations, especially with the Government.

A museum would have economic and historic value, she said.

"The idea needs to be canvassed, that doesn't mean to say that we're going to be stumping up with a lot of money, but we certainly need to have conversations going because anything like this is normally years in the making."