Museum plan put on hold

About $1 million for the Waipā museum project – Te Ara Wai – could be redirected to the district council’s water projects.

The $33 million museum was officially put on hold this week by Waipā District Council because of a “significant change” to the financial landscape, chief executive Garry Dyet told councillors.

Garry Dyet

“It is prudent for all project works to be paused, including the discharge of the Te Ara Wai governance committee,” he said in a report.

The project would now go back into the pot for consideration at the Long Term Plan hearings next year.

Council paid $2.05 million in May 2021 for the former Te Awamutu Bunnings building in Arawata Street to house the museum and has been sub-leasing it to AgTech Logistics for an undisclosed sum since August 2022.

Two months later – in a development which muddied the waters for the council – the existing museum in Roche Street was closed because of an earthquake risk and relocate temporarily to Rickit Road.

The now closed Te Awamutu Museum building in Roche Street. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

That “temporary” move might become semi-permanent given the council’s precarious finances and the ballooning costs of building a new museum to house the organisation’s large collection of more than 19,000 objects.

Items in the collection span centuries with taonga Māori and social history artefacts at its heart, according to the museum’s website.

The collection has extensive material relating to the New Zealand land wars and colonial settlement in Waipā as well as the district’s unique documentary heritage, including photographs, maps, whakapapa and family histories.

Its most precious item is Te Uenuku (the rainbow), an early Māori carving which is of huge significance to Tainui and also for its archaeological value.

It is now in storage.

An artist’s impression of Te Ara Wai, now delayed for years.

A resolution to pause Te Ara Wai was needed because of a council resolution in September last year which allowed staff to go ahead with design works, gaining of consents and continue discussion with funders using Better off Funding.

Waipā received $5.24 million from the previous government as part of a $2 billion Three Waters reform sweetener in recognition of the transfer of responsibility for fresh, waste and storm water to four public water entities.

The new government scrapped Four Waters when it came into office putting the financial responsibility back with councils.

Funding to cover the costs incurred for the project  will be withdrawn from the Crown, said Dyet.

Discussions will now be held with the Department of Internal Affairs about any uncommitted Better off Funding which Dyet estimates could leave about $1 million. The council could use that to reduce debt associated with Three Waters.

Dyet said there would be “disappointment” in the community. Te Ara Wai would have told the story of the 1864 Land Wars in a Waipā specific way.

Relationships with iwi and mana whenua would need managing, he said.



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