With a $12 million injection of cash and three high-level industry experts on its project control group, Sarjeant Gallery Trust chairwoman Nicola Williams believes the success of the Sarjeant Gallery Redevelopment Project is assured.
But she admits to a few anxious moments as she watched the price tag rise by $15 million and the building's 2019 centennial pass without any visible progress on the ground.
Not a lot could be said during that long and "not easy" time and she raised her concerns with Whanganui District Council earlier this year.
The project has an advisory committee chaired by Whanganui councillor Kate Joblin, and a project control group that consists of the construction company, project director Gaye Batty and consultants.
The addition of David Warburton, Paul Bayly and Philip Barron to that group will be invaluable, Williams said.
"I wanted high-level scrutiny and risk management around the project. Having these people there will give great confidence to ratepayers."
She also puts faith in her trust, with such members as former Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and former Whanganui Mayor Annette Main.
The initial estimated cost of $35m in 2016 increased to $49.3m this year. The total could not be given until last month, for commercial reasons.
Batty said the design was only 40 per cent finished in 2016, when the first estimate was made.
By May 2019 the design for the new wing was complete, and the lowest tender, from McMillan & Lockwood (MML) of $20.08m, was accepted.
Design for the old building was more complex and was finished in December 2019, then reviewed by Auckland University.
Major changes were made to the strengthening work, to protect the building's dome. The strengthening will now take six months longer, which increased costs.
"My understanding is that most of the cost escalations came around the heritage building, which is highly complex," Williams said.
The $21.9m contract for strengthening it was awarded to MML last month.
The total price tag of $49.3m does not include contingencies - unexpected expenses that may crop up. Whanganui District Council has agreed to underwrite those, but they will not be known until late in the building process, set to finish in 2022.
Before the latest Provincial Growth Fund announcements on July 3, the Sarjeant Gallery Trust was focused on raising the $5m-plus shortfall in funding.
The extra $12m brings the total available to a comfortable $56.2 million.
The trust can now focus instead on an endowment fund that will pay for gallery extras - "nice-to-haves" like restoring art works, hosting travelling exhibitions and buying new art works.
"The ratepayers will only be responsible for paying the staff and keeping the doors open."
A council assessment of the project predicts "realistically" that it will bring an extra 22,000 visitors to the district and increase visitor spending by $12.2m every year, and create 153 new jobs.
The gallery's collection is at national level, and already attracts international visitors, Williams said. Added to that, it's inside a purpose-built heritage building.
"Nobody else has a beautiful Greek-cross classical building. It's something to be really proud of."
As things now stand, ratepayers are funding less than 10 per cent of the project. Williams is looking for a director for the 2023 summer festival planned to celebrate the gallery opening.
"I personally have pledged to get half of New Zealand there," she said.