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Development Trust spearheads Shantytown makeover

Development Trust spearheads Shantytown makeover

The West Coast Development Trust has allocated $250,000 to fund a redevelopment plan for Shantytown, an historic tourist attraction near Greymouth.

The plan is considered vital for Shantytown’s future. A recent conservator’s report confirmed that some of the exhibits are deteriorating, with many of the 10,000 items in Shantytown’s collection stored in less than ideal conditions.

“Ongoing deterioration of the historic collection means the operation is not sustainable in the long term,” says Development Trust chief executive Mike Trousselot. “Without redevelopment, Shantytown’s assets will slowly degrade to the point where it is no longer attractive to visit.”

He says The Development Trust grant will cover the cost of completing the planning work required to remodel the site, protect the existing collection of historic items, increase visitor numbers and ensure the facility has a sustainable future.

Shantytown is widely recognised as a major community asset on the West Coast but has been unable to meet its full potential in recent years. Annual visitor numbers have remained static at around 90,000 over the last decade and a half, while International visitor numbers to the West Coast increased 134% and Domestic Visitors increased 39% in the same period.

The eventual redevelopment of the 34-year old tourist attraction is estimated to cost $7 million. Initial ideas involve the major development of ‘living history’ style interpretation – expected to display a mix of the best interpretive methods now displayed by the world’s leading attractions and museums with particular emphasis on West Coast history and stories. Other changes proposed are the remodelling of the entrance, relocating the retail shop and the establishment of a steam train apprentice school – a concept that is already well advanced with Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

Shantytown is governed by the West Coast Historical and Mechanical Society. It currently supports up to 22 full-time and 15 part-time staff. “The operation is a significant employer in the region and has the potential to sustain several more jobs once the redevelopment is complete,” says Mike Trousselot.

Unlike many other museums and cultural and heritage attractions in New Zealand, Shantytown does not represent a financial burden on its local community and is, as far as can be ascertained, the only attraction of its type anywhere in the world that does not receive any day-to-day operational funding. Part of the $250,000 Development Trust grant will cover the cost of employing a fundraising specialist to source the millions of dollars required for the redevelopment. Likely sources include the Regional Museums Capital Construction Fund operated by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, other government departments, the Lotteries Commission and the corporate sector.

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