Discussions between Rotorua Lakes Council and senior ministers to secure Government funding for the strengthening and restoration of Rotorua Museum are progressing well, says mayor Steve Chadwick.

Chadwick revealed the progress being made in talks with senior Government ministers today, during a briefing at Trenz.

"I am working closely with senior ministers and am heartened by the discussions we've had to date to secure Government funding for our museum," she said.

"Government MPs will also need to support us as we work through what level of support the Government can provide.

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"Rotorua Museum is a New Zealand icon and we have been pushing for Government assistance since we were forced to close it in late 2016. It is Rotorua's priority."

Chadwick said the council was "fighting for our museum".

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / Supplied

"Rotorua continues to play a major role in tourism in New Zealand and our museum is a big part of that.

"The museum means a lot to our community and getting it re-opened remains a top priority for myself and this council."

The museum was closed in November 2016 after damage was discovered in the historic Bath House portion of the building following the Kaikoura earthquake.

The building was found to be below new building standards and was considered earthquake-prone and a risk to public safety.

Restoration and strengthening was expected to cost between $45 million and $50m.

Rotorua Lakes Council had committed $15m to the project in its 2018-2028 Long Term Plan. Rotorua Trust had contributed $10m and the Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust was also committed to helping fundraise.

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"It is a complicated process getting the level of funding we require but I am working with senior ministers and the aim is to get the funding lined up so that we can start work on the building later this year, as planned," Chadwick said.

Chadwick said the assessments, planning and design work needed before work could start had been complex.

"We are talking about a historic building with Heritage 1 status and every step towards re-opening our beloved museum needs to be taken with great care and planning."

Designs for the project are almost finished and work to prepare the site for construction could start in July this year.

Resource consent was issued in March 2019 following extensive structural and geotechnical assessment and design work. This was a prerequisite for some potential funding opportunities.

Asbestos was found in the museum roof space and ground and would be removed by experts once work on the building began.

About the Bath House

The Bath House was the Government's first major investment in the tourism industry, seen as a way to make Rotorua a world famous spa destination.

It opened in 1908 and is the only surviving building from the first 45 years of Rotorua as a spa destination.

In 1963 the Rotorua City Council assumed control of the Bath House and by 1966 the Health Department fully vacated the building.

Rotorua Museum opened in the south wing of the Bath House in 1969 and Rotorua Art Gallery opened in the north wing in 1977. Two restaurants and a night-club also occupied areas of the building until 1990.

In 2011 a major extension completed the building to the original 1902 plans.

Today the building holds a Category 1 listing under the Historic Places Act.