A New Zealand project director with a passion for overseeing the restoration of heritage buildings and proven experience with recent significant multimillion-dollar redevelopments in Taranaki has been employed to bring the long-awaited Sarjeant Gallery redevelopment to fruition.
Newly appointed project director Gaye Batty has had considerable experience with complex local government projects including construction of New Plymouth's Len Lye Gallery and the recent redevelopment of the New Plymouth Airport Terminal Development.
Redevelopment of the 100-year-old Sarjeant Gallery is due to get under way in September. The construction phase includes restoration of the historic Sarjeant Gallery and a new state-of-the-art facility with gallery spaces and education facilities and is expected to take two years to complete.
The Whanganui District Council chief executive, Kym Fell, says Batty's experience and proven success with major projects like the Len Lye Gallery and the New Plymouth airport terminal development make her an ideal candidate for the job.
"The links between the Len Lye project and the Sarjeant Gallery project, which both involve restoration and EQ strengthening of heritage buildings and linked art gallery spaces, are clear.
"Having the same person to deliver the Sarjeant Gallery project was an easy choice for council, and we are delighted to have someone of Ms Batty's calibre on board."
In her role as project director at the Len Lye, Batty directed the strengthening of the Govett Brewster building and construction of the Len Lye centre within projected time frames and on budget.
She also oversaw earthquake strengthening of the TSB Showplace and the New Plymouth Opera House.
Batty says while she is no stranger to the complexities of large redevelopments, it is the first time she has been tasked with overseeing preservation of a neo-classical building like the Sarjeant Gallery that has a unique dome feature as its centrepiece.
"While I have a passion for overseeing the restoration of heritage buildings, I've never done a dome before, and the whole methodology of how we protect it is of great interest to me. It's a rare building, and the dome is unique and presents a wonderful challenge.".
Although she was born in Hawera and grew up in New Plymouth Batty has close connections with Whanganui.
Her late father, George, and siblings were born on Durie Hill and grew up in the area.
Her mother's great uncle, Nicholas Meuli, did a lot of the architectural construction for many of the Whanganui's historic buildings.
She believes the project offers huge economic benefits for Whanganui during and after construction.
"There's going to be some very particular masonry needed and there could be the opportunity for young people to learn some of those skills," she said.