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‘Monumental’: Funding Secured To Fix And Reopen Rotorua Museum

Construction to reopen Rotorua’s iconic museum will begin in June as the council secures the final funding needed and brings down the total cost.

Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa closed due to earthquake risk in 2016.

Restoring it was initially expected to cost $53.85 million but cost increases took this to at least $81.4m.

Rotorua Lakes Council presented elected members and the public with several options; fully restore and reopen the museum as planned, stretch the project out in stages; or move the museum and find an alternative use for the Bath House building, which is more than a century old and has a category 1 historic places rating.

Councillors voted to fully restore the building following consultation and aimed to keep the council’s share within the $15.5m it budgeted for the project.

Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell announces the Rotorua Museum build will get underway in June. Photo: Laura Smith

It has since been working to fill the funding shortfall, and announced today it succeeded in this as well as bringing down the total expected cost to $73.55m.

Central Government this month agreed to add an extra $5m to its $17m contribution to the project through the Kānoa - Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit’s Provincial Growth Fund, meaning the build was entirely funded and the council would not need to put more ratepayer money into it.

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Fundraising will continue for the exhibition work.

It also announced the construction contract was confirmed with Watts & Hughes, the company that managed the south wing extension completed in 2011.

Mayor Tania Tapsell told Local Democracy Reporting going out for a competitive tender enabled savings.

She said it also looked at how it could “de-risk” the building project to prevent budget blowout.

“Getting that last piece of the puzzle was a monumental achievement.”

More than 80 per cent of the feedback it received from the public supported the project going ahead, so long as the council capped its contribution, she said.

“That was the best financial decision for us at these times.”

She said construction was expected to be complete in 2027.

In a statement, head of Kānoa Robert Pigou said it understood the significant role the museum played in the identity of the city and was pleased the build could go ahead with its support.

He said it, along with other nearby tourist attractions, would enhance tourism and economic growth in the city and region.

Bay of Plenty Regional councillor and Rotorua Museum Centennial Trust chairman Lyall Thurston said he was "absolutely thrilled" by the news.

"I pay tribute to the council . . . it couldn't have been easy but they have done it."

"It will be a great day for Rotorua the day the doors open again."

Project funding

  • Kānoa $22m
  • Rotorua Lakes Council $15.5m
  • Rotorua Trust $15m
  • Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage $9m
  • Lotteries (Significant Projects Funding) $6m
  • Bay of Plenty Regional Council $4.1m (previously this was dedicated to exhibition development, but it now can be used for the building or exhibitions)
  • Lotteries (Environment and Heritage Funding) $0.35m.
  • Joe and Jo-Anne La Grouw also committed the proceeds of sale from artwork from their personal collection.

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