Waipā District Council has accelerated its commitment to a new museum in Te Awamutu by buying the former Bunnings building in Arawata St.
Council has confirmed it had purchased the building for $2.05 million, plus leased the land it sits on from the Parish of St John. Council hopes the building will be used to house Te Ara Wai, a museum to showcase Waipā and New Zealand history, with a focus on the New Zealand Land Wars.
The purchase of the building went unconditional today, to the absolute delight of Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest.
"This was a fantastic opportunity to secure a building large enough to house an expanded museum and in a really high-profile location," said Jim.
"It's across the road from Selwyn Park, near the historic St John's Church and is close to the Mangaohoi Steam. Plus there is plenty of room on site for further development to develop the vision we have for Te Awamutu. It will give council huge scope to develop something fantastic on this site. I'm delighted."
Jim said the purchase will mean a "re-jig" of council's long-term plan, which was yet to be finalised.
Council had already committed $7.2m to Te Ara Wai in the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan, but will now reconsider the timing of any expenditure. That will be done before the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan is signed off in June this year and after discussions with iwi.
The purchase means council will also rethink its plans and the opportunities for the Mahoe St site which had originally been earmarked for Te Ara Wai, and which council also owns.
"Te Ara Wai is reliant on external funding and the project had been temporarily parked because of Covid-19 and the uncertainty that created. But this purchase means we now have an opportunity to bring the whole project forward. This would be wonderful for Te Awamutu and Waipā, and frankly for New Zealand to finally hear its own stories, right where they happened."
Jim said the vast majority of design work already done for Te Ara Wai would still be used.
"There's no need to go back to the drawing board. The building was completed in 2010 and, while it will need to be fitted out and obviously needs work, we have a very, very sound base to start from," he said.
"We have a large, good quality building on a great, high-profile site. That gives us certainty and also provides evidence of council's commitment to the project. That alone will help make fundraising a heck of a lot easier because that is two key things that philanthropics and sponsors look for."
Museum staff are delighted that a new museum in Te Awamutu could be accelerated l through the purchase of the building.
Waipā District Council Museums and Heritage director Anne Blyth says the team is keen to have an expanded space in a high profile location in which to showcase Waipā and New Zealand history.
"The current museum has many challenges and is no longer fit for purpose to operate a modern museum.
"While there is still a lot of work to do, the purchase brings us a step closer to Te Ara Wai becoming a reality."
Te Awamutu Museum Trust Board is pleased with the announcement and that progress is being made in regards a new museum to house the collection.
Trust chair Dean Taylor says the trust has been pursuing a fit-for-purpose museum for decades and this finally felt like a step forward.
He says trustees are now looking forward to working alongside council, museum staff and other stakeholders to make Te Ara Wai a reality.