The community is reeling with news the iconic Rotorua Museum will remain closed for the 'foreseeable future' due to significant structural damage.
The news comes with the release of the Detailed Seismic Assessment of the building showing it fell well below earthquake safety standards.
Rotorua Lakes Council says the museum can be fixed but if, how, when, and how much it will cost is still to be determined.
The category 1 heritage building, which is more than 100 years old, closed last November after being damaged by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Kaikoura.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said while the closure of the much-loved building was devastating for the community and for the council, public safety was the priority.
"The wait for the results of the detailed assessment has been frustrating for us all but it has been necessary to ensure we have a clear picture of what we're faced with.
"We will now need to consider the options for both the building and the future of our museum services and make a decision about how to proceed."
The result of the detailed seismic assessment - which included invasive testing - assessed most of the building at 15 per cent of the National Building Standard.
Buildings that are at 33 per cent or below are considered earthquake prone.
This means the building will need substantial work before it can open to the public again.
Assessment by engineers show repairs are needed to the roof and there is substantial timber and joint deterioration.
The internal pumice walls, which have no steel reinforcement, would be seriously compromised by certain movement.
The council's chief financial officer, Thomas Colle, said the council now had a clear understanding of what state the building was in.
"That means we can start working with our engineers, architects and Heritage New Zealand to understand what our options are, consider the work involved and the estimated cost of each option to bring back to the council for its consideration and a decision. That will take several months.
"Funding options will need to be explored too but again, it's too early to guess how much might be needed," Mr Colle said.
The council's arts and culture director, Stewart Brown, said in the meantime museum staff would continue to run events.
"It's too early to speculate about what the operational or business side of things will look like in the future. We will be working through that during the coming months.
"Taonga in all but the Te Arawa collection area - excluding some of the marble Summers sculptures which we'll have removed soon - were moved out and into storage some time ago.
"The majority of taonga in the Nga Pumanawa O Te Arawa exhibition are located in the part of the building assessed at 80 per cent so are safe. We are working with iwi, Te Papa, Auckland Museum and other lenders on a plan for the ongoing care of the few remaining taonga that need relocating," he said.
Local Ann Somerville guided people through the museum for more than two decades.
"Day in and day out we have been waiting to find out about our museum . . . So much is on hold while its doors are closed.
"Now that we know the extent of the damage it will require some soul searching and determined positivity to get us through.
"While I was expecting the outcome, it is still so sad. But my gut feeling is that it will reopen. It can't possibly not be a museum. It's in our DNA."
Ms Somerville said she would always treasure the time she spent in the museum.
"People will want to see it reopen. I believe there will be goodwill, not just locally but nationally, and even internationally. It's been preserved through thick and thin for more than 100 years, this is just a period in its history."
People commenting on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page were largely in favour of the council prioritising the museum's repair.
"Come on council, fix it! It's our icon and means so much to us locals. Rotorua won't be the same without the museum," one person wrote.
"Fix it and fix it now! It is a Rotorua icon that must be reopened at any expense," another said.
Elected members received an update on the museum in confidential during yesterday's operations and monitoring committee meeting.
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer said while the museum was one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand, she did not believe the extended closure would deter visitors.
"For those who wish to deepen their knowledge of Rotorua's culture and history the Rotorua Museum team are still offering their education programmes and daily Outside the Walls tours and there are many other quality experiences they can consider.
"The team has also done a fantastic job relocating the major touring exhibitions to great success, such as the Da Vinci Machines and Robots exhibition that was held at the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre."
What's happened so far
- November 18, 2016 the museum was closed as a precautionary measure following the appearance of cracks in some parts of the building after the Kaikoura earthquake.
- On December 2, having received a preliminary rapid response report, the council confirmed the building would remain closed until at least April 2017 to enable a Detailed Seismic Assessment (DSA) to be completed.
- The report was received by the council this week.
- The council set aside $500,000 this financial year (2017/18) for ongoing work related to the museum.
- The museum building is a Category 1 heritage building which is more than 100 years old and was originally a bath house.
- Rotorua Lakes Council undertook earthquake risk assessments of its buildings in 2011. Several council buildings were identified as being at risk, including the older, central part of the museum (the bath house) which dates back to 1908.
- As part of the council's earthquake strengthening work programme, engineers were already at the museum in November to undertake a detailed seismic assessment to further understand the level of risk and develop a plan for strengthening work.
- There was an addition added to the northern end in 2008 and an extension added at the southern end, where the Te Arawa collection is housed, was completed in 2011.
- In the 12 months to October 31, 2016, 113,450 people visited Rotorua Museum.
- The closure has resulted in an estimated $1.5 million in lost revenue.
What did the Detailed Seismic Assessment (DSA) involve?
- The assessment took months to complete due to the complexity of the building, its construction and the various testing that needed to be done.
- It included researching existing documentation and information about the building, opening up and checking the strength of walls (destructive testing), investigating how the building was constructed, core sampling and scans, and geotechnical investigations in the area around the building.
- The assessment was carried out with input from Heritage New Zealand.