Council’s big Bunnings buy

The view from Selwyn Park towards Bunnings on the left, and St John’s Church on the right.

Waipā District Council has confirmed it has purchased the former Bunnings building in Te Awamutu.

The News revealed last week council had its eye on one of the two sites left vacant when Bunnings closes stories last year.

Council confirmed it had purchased the building for $2.05 million and leased the land it sits on from the Parish of St John.

It plans to use the Arawata St building 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 on Tuesday.

“This was a fantastic opportunity to secure a building large enough to house an expanded museum and in a really high-profile location,” Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest said.

“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.”

The purchase will cause a “re-jig” of council’s long-term plan which has yet to be finalised. It has committed $7.2 million 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 for the Mahoe Street site originally earmarked for Te Ara Wai, and which Council also owns.

Te Ara Wai is reliant on external funding and the project had stalled because of Covid-19.

“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,” the mayor said.

Most of the 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 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 philanthropists and sponsors look for.”

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