Ratepayers could pay all up more than $27 million for Waipā’s Te Ara Wai Museum in Te Awamutu, and the bulk would be spent over the next two years.
A revised budget was due for release to the recently reformed Te Ara Wai Government committee on Monday, but Cyclone Gabrielle’s presence thwarted the discussion.
When the council first approved the project in 2017 the budget was $7.2 million. Three years later it was up to $16.6 million.
Designing and building the museum now at what was a hardware warehouse in Arawata Street will cost ratepayers $20.48 million. It could be less – at least $7 million of asset sales may be allocated to the project.
The council has already spent $2.05 million buying the former Bunnings building and expects to get $1.7 million from Three Waters Better Off funding, $1 million from Trust Waikato and other grants yet to be secured.
Additional costs already included in the $27.48 million are $5.15 million for exhibition planning, design, development and installation, packing and moving the museum collection $432,400 and marketing of $1.32 million for both Te Ara Wai and Te Ara Wai Journeys.
The committee, which sources say will be chaired by Finance chair Andrew Brown, was to consider other opportunities around the site, an update on the Te Awamutu Museum closure and go into public excluded to discuss a project implementation report.
The museum closed in October last year after a seismic assessment deemed it an earthquake risk.
Customer and Community Services group manager Sally Sheedy said in a report to the committee that the project had been on hold for 30 months following unsuccessful funding applications to central government during Covid.
When Australian-owned Bunnings closed in 2021, the council bought the hardware giant’s building because of its location within Te Awamutu’s historical footprint – next to the Ōtāwhao Mission Station site and Mangaohoi Stream, and within the shadow of Kaipaka Pā and neighbouring Old St John’s Church.
Originally plans for Te Ara Wai – which will house New Zealand’s Waipā’s unique collection of taonga, stories that connect to significant locations in the district, a research centre, a hub for school and education programmes – were centred around a site next to Te Awamutu Library.
In 2019, Trust Waikato announced it would inject $1 million into the project and while that commitment continued through Covid and while the project was on hold, Sheedy says the council may not be able to defer it any longer.
Earlier this year Waipā was one of three councils to get Government’s Better Off funding for community projects.
The council will allocate $1.7 million from the $5.24 million it received towards Te Ara Wai.
The reformed committee was also to consider a plan for the site and how it would interact with Te Awamutu.
Among those would be an opportunity to enhance the town centre entry and establishing a civic spine connecting the reserve through to the main street.
The project has the support of mana whenua as an avenue to safely share their stories of the New Zealand Land Wars.
“Any further delay of the Te Ara Wai would cause frustration with our mana whenua partners,” said Sheedy.
“Any further delay will also compromise gaining some of the stories held by kaumatua who are of an older demographic and may have health or physical capacity challenges preventing them from sharing these stories, which are then lost.”
There was no indication when the Te Ara Wai committee will meet but it is expected to meet regularly while the project proceeds.