A "phenomenal gift" is how a $10 million donation by the Rotorua Trust for the rebuild of the Rotorua Museum is being described.

The trust announced today it was committing $10m to the rebuild after trustees unanimously agreed that rebuilding and re-opening the museum was a priority for the community.

The latest costings for the rebuilding of the earthquake-damaged iconic building is $40m to $47m.

The Bath House in Government Gardens is iconic. Photo / File
The Bath House in Government Gardens is iconic. Photo / File

The Rotorua Lakes Council has already committed $15m through its Long-Term Plan and it is now looking to the Government and other funding agencies to help with the remaining $20m to $25m.

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Trust chairman Stewart Edward said the museum and Bath House was seen as a symbol of the community and it was imperative the facility be opened as soon as possible.

The details of the trust's contribution are yet to be worked out but there's a hope the $10m commitment would unlock further funding opportunities with the Government.

"This is an iconic building for both our community and the thousands of visitors who choose New Zealand and Rotorua as a destination. We acknowledge the cultural significance of the site to Te Arawa and the historical and economic impact of the building to our community," he said.

Members of the Rotorua Lakes Council and Rotorua Trust outside the Rotorua Museum. Photo / Ben Fraser
Members of the Rotorua Lakes Council and Rotorua Trust outside the Rotorua Museum. Photo / Ben Fraser

"Trustees are very aware that we need to make sure there will still be funds available to help the wide variety of Rotorua organisations that look to the trust for support each year.

"These grants help organisations, big and small, to achieve our kaupapa of making a better Rotorua for all. We are happy to say they won't be affected by any contribution we make to the museum".

The trust granted $4.7m towards the building's extension in 2009 and owns a substantial art collection usually on display there.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said at an announcement, held in front of the building with trustees and other council officials today , the donation was a "phenonemal gift".

"This is the most amazing Christmas present for the people of Rotorua."

She said the trust's commitment was "fantastic news" and highlighted the importance of the museum to the local community.

"Reinstating and re-opening our museum is an absolute priority for council, as it is for our community. It features as a key project in council's Long-Term Plan and this very generous $10m contribution will provide us with the impetus we need to attract further external funding from central Government.

"All the design and planning is nearing completion and we are busy pursuing all funding opportunities.

"On behalf of council and the community I'd like to thank Rotorua Trust for its generosity – the trust is a very important supporter of Rotorua and we acknowledge its substantial contribution to our community over many years."

Rotorua Museum has been closed since December 2016. Photo / File
Rotorua Museum has been closed since December 2016. Photo / File

Museum director Stewart Brown said work on the rebuild would start in July next year and was expected to take two years.

What has happened since Rotorua Museum closed?

November 18, 2016: Rotorua Museum closed following a rapid seismic risk assessment which determined the building was earthquake prone

December 2016 – August 2017: Research, destructive testing and analysis to determine in detail the condition of the building and the ground on which it sits

August 2017 – December 2017: Four structural strengthening options were evaluated, and the preferred option selected

December 2017: Detailed seismic assessment was completed which rated the building at 19 per cent of new building standard. Buildings below 34 per cent are considered earthquake prone, while those under 67 per cent are considered earthquake risk

December 2017 – February 2018: Engineers GDC developed the structural concept design for strengthening the building, for review by Rotorua Lakes Council and Heritage New Zealand

February 2018 – December 2018: Structural design developed into detailed drawings and specifications with estimated costs

June 2018: Rotorua Lakes Council long-term plan signed off following community consultation. Council approved $15 million towards strengthening the Rotorua Museum building with the balance required to be sourced externally

November 2018: Opus appointed as project managers

Next steps for the Rotorua Museum project

Now: Developed design phase under way

Jan – July 2019: Detailed design phase

July 2019: Contractor procurement and construction starts

July 2019 – 2020: Construction

2020 - 2021: Exhibition development and installation prior to museum re-opening


Brief history of the Bath House building

1908: Rotorua Bath House opened by Admiral Sperry of the American Fleet

1911-12: South wing addition completed

1947: Bath House transferred to the Health Department

1963: Bath House transferred to Rotorua District Council along with a grant of $64,000

1965: Tudor Towers restaurant, and later nightclub, took up lease of upstairs area

1969: City of Rotorua Museum opened in South Wing

1977: Rotorua City Art Gallery opened in North Wing

1988: Art Gallery and Museum amalgamated

1990: Tudor Towers restaurant and nightclub lease expired

2006: North Wing viewing platform reinstated – Stage I of Centennial project

2008: North Wing gallery extensions completed – Stage II of Centennial project

2011: South Wing gallery extensions completed – Stage III of Centennial project

November 16, 2016: Rotorua Museum closed for earthquake strengthening on the Bath House building