There were hugs, cheers, singing, speeches, cakes, and visitors from far and wide at the Rotorua Museum and Bath House building's 111th birthday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones brought two gifts from central government: $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund and $5 million from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
The money will be put towards restoring the museum, which was forced to close in November 2016 after a seismic assessment made following the Kaikoura earthquake.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick thanked them for their generosity and told the gathering: "We've finished (fundraising), we can now start the rebuild".
The building's strengthening and restoration is expected to cost $45m to $50m.
The first stage of an international exhibition and conference centre at the site is also expected to cost $5m.
The wider project is expected to create 371 additional jobs in the region, according to modelling carried out by the council.
The category one heritage structure, one of New Zealand's most photographed building, was described by Ardern as a national treasure during yesterday's visit.
"The New Zealand Government at the time made its first significant investment in tourism and backed the region's plan to really draw people to the Bath House and it did."
It was constructed on land gifted by Ngāti Whakaue and was designed in the Elizabethan style, as a therapeutic bathhouse using the area's famous geothermal resources.
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After the 2016 assessment, legally the building had to be strengthened within a decade, or demolished.
"There's no way anyone was going to let that happen," Ardern said.
"The Government investment will go towards the restoration of the museum which will help get it ready for the next stage of its proposed development... the construction of a skybridge, a cafe and a digital and interactive experience for visitors".
She said it would "attract more visitors, it will encourage people to stay longer, and it will encourage the contribution into the wider community and economy."
Ardern said investments in regional infrastructure, such as the museum, were necessary "in our economic cycle, when we are facing global headwinds... to make sure that we keep unemployment low, that we keep our people engaged, that we keep our regional economies thriving."
Ardern said Chadwick was "absolutely dedicated, and some might say relentless in her advocacy" for the restoration.
Chadwick said she had received emails from all around the world calling for the building's restoration.
She could not provide an exact timeframe for the reopening, due to the project's complexity.
"We are hopeful that in two years, she can be opened, but you never know what you find when you get into a building like this."
The mayor said the building above ground was almost perfect.
"It's really the reinforcement right down into the basement [that is needed], steel reinforcement, and quite substantial work."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey described the announcement as "a brilliant moment".
Jones said investing in legacy assets such as the museum had as much to do with cherishing the past as it did "with bedding down a future for our young people".
"We have spent quite a bit of time, showering fiscal pixie dust in Rotorua. Not only should you count yourselves very fortunate, I will count your response late next year," he joked.
The council had committed $15m, the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust $10m and the Lottery's significant projects fund $6m, alongside a $100,000 donation from the Phillip Verry Charitable Foundation.
Central government's $20m contribution now brings the total secured funding to $51.1m and the Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust has committed to help raise the final few millions for the exhibitions.
The Provincial Growth Fund had committed $133m to Bay of Plenty by the end of June 2019, including funding for the Lakefront development and Whakarewarewa Forest development in Rotorua.
Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said the original Bath House building sent "a very powerful message of pre-colonial taonga and post colonial contact" in the region.
He said Te Tatau o Te Arawa was "around the table of discussions about the project designs, the transfer of taonga to and from the museum, and the final renovations," and would continue to be.
Following this morning’s Rotorua Museum $20m funding announcement, Jacinda Ardern is being taken on a tour of the site.Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Monday, 12 August 2019
Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust chairman Stewart Edward said the trust was "absolutely over the moon" about the announcement.
He said the museum had "huge importance for the psyche of Rotorua and its economy".
Edward said the trust's contribution had "helped get the project over the line so the Government could consider its part of the partnership".
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Bryce Heard said the building was "the face of Rotorua".
"Having it uninhabited - it's ugly for tourism. It's a building we promote all over the world."
He said the funding was "excellent news".
"I thank the Government and hope it keeps coming."
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer said "It's exciting to see this much-loved building join the list of other significant developments that will change the face of Rotorua over the next couple of years".
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the museum was an extremely popular building that requires considerable structural work after years of a lack of maintenance.
"National said in early 2017 that we would contribute to the museum fund when the final costing were known.
"It's disappojting that the damage is not covered by insurance and that the taxpayer and ratepayer faces big bills but I'm glad it will be rebuilt."
Street view: Why is the Rotorua Museum important to you?
I like how it shows our history, and I want to be able to take my son there.
Chris Scanlon, 32
Because it holds and keeps information that is precious to the local hapū and iwi. It specialises in Māori knowledge from the area.
Rowena Thompson, 28
It houses the historic pieces of this town. It's like a book that tells the story.
Gerald Poblete, 35
It is important to have to educate our children.
Charmaine Heke, 48
What happens now?
January 2019 – April 2020: Resource consent granted, detailed designs to be completed, construction contract to be awarded and building consent to be approved.
July 2019 – April 2020: Enabling works (to prepare site for construction) and early construction phase including asbestos removal, under-floor strengthening and south wing construction.
April 2020 – 2022: Construction including main foyer and north wing strengthening and restoration, and exhibition design and development.
2022: Rotorua Museum to re-open.