Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says applications for the second round of funding to support regional cultural amenities is now open.
And Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has seized on this opportunity to get stuck into the Tauranga, Western Bay of Plenty and regional councils and corporates to support his call for a museum for Tauranga.
“Millions have gone to Whanganui, Nelson, Whakatane, and even Gore last year and these are all centres that are far smaller than us,” says Simon.
“Whanganui, for example, would be under half Tauranga's size and received a $10 million grant from the Government for the Sarjeant Gallery that will bring in both domestic and international tourists to their city.
“I'm sure we can obtain money from this museum fund. But it requires a number of players to step up on this.”
Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless says it's great the Government has funds available for heritage projects such as a museum.
“Like many things though, big issues to grapple with if Tauranga is to have a museum are not only the initial capital costs but the ongoing operational costs that need to be met every year.”
But Simon says the council has previously, with less generous funding from government, made decisions to build a museum.
“But at the moment [the councils] seems to be taking their time on this.”
The Regional Culture and Heritage Fund replaced the former Regional Museums Policy and will have $12 million available for Round 2, subject to the calibre of applications received.
“It will support a range of important regional institutions, which may be struggling to get capital,” says Maggie.
“Applications will be considered for building projects, renovations and additions to venues such as theatres and opera houses, museums, galleries, heritage buildings with collections, and whare taonga.”
Simon believes the Bay of Plenty Regional Council also has to step up.
“This museum, this cultural centre won't be just for Tauranga, but will be regionally significant and we know at the moment regional council has significant funding coming in through their asset ownership of the port, a Tauranga-based facility.
“Our corporates are also enjoying the best times they've ever had, and the best conditions they've ever had in New Zealand.
“They can afford to be good corporate citizens on this. In doing good for the community, they'll also be doing good for their businesses building support for their operations for the long term.”
Doug Leeder, chair of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, says the council predominantly has responsibility for dealing with environmental issues, with the primary focus around soil, water and air.
“Funding museums is not something regional councils generally would get involved in.
“We, as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council have several funds that community groups especially can tap into and I'm referring to people such as the estuary care groups, again you can see the environmental focus as opposed to a museum, which we fund. Most of those people are volunteers and I think it's important that their efforts are actually recognised in terms of trying to support them as much as we can.
“Also, I understand the debate about the museum for Tauranga has been ongoing for some time.
“And Tauranga City Council has had numerous engagements with their community over this. They are best placed to talk about the opportunities and the challenges. Those organisations such as gambling organisations that put money back into the community I think in this instance are better suited for the likes of applications to go to in the first instance.”
The funding the council receives via the Port of Tauranga directly reduces the amount of general rates paid across the whole region.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council doesn't directly receive a dividend payment from the Port of Tauranga. It receives an annual dividend directly from Quayside Holdings Limited, who are the entity that own a majority shareholding in the Port, and therefore receive a dividend from them.
The dividend received by Council from Quayside Holdings is $20.8 million in 2016/17.
This funding is put into a pot called "general funds".
This also includes other investment interest receipts that provides another $9 million that effectively reduces general rates in 2016/17.
Hypothetically, if this $20 million dividend was not received, general rates would need to double across the whole region. This is because council also raises $20 million in general rates in 2016/17.
The average regional council rates (in the Tauranga area) is $165 (for the year).
It is a different average amount in each of the Region's territorial authorities.
At Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Mayor Garry Webber is appreciative of the funding made available by Government, but with reservations.
“I'm not really in support of where Simon is coming from,” says Garry. “But in terms of the Government initiative of making the funds available, I suppose we've got to be happy for any pennies that fall from heaven in this day and age.
“Traditionally, it's the other way where central Government impose regulations on us and we have to bear the cost so it's great to see some money coming back the other way. And I think whether it's Western Bay or Tauranga City, if we've got a genuine cause that we believe should be funding then we really have to get into it.
“And yes the Tauranga museum and Tauranga Art Gallery would be logical applicants as would be The Elms, but from Western Bay's perspective, we've got our own museum in Katikati. Like all art galleries and museums, they are resource hungry, and funding from anywhere is appreciated. So we wouldn't stand in anyone's way applying to the fund but I wouldn't be surprised if nationwide it was oversubscribed.”
Civic Amenities Group chair Paul Adams believes Tauranga City Council needs to make a decision.
"I was grateful for the help and support that our Tauranga MP, Hon Simon Bridges gave to CAG when we obtained a commitment from Government to contribute a third of the capital cost of a new CBD museum,” says Paul.
“TCC has procrastinated in making a timely decision on the CBD revitalisation, and so the offer from Government has not been taken up. Instead the Government has provided funds to other towns, and Whanganui has just been gifted $10m for its museum.
“TCC needs to stop procrastinating,” says Paul, “make a decision on CBD projects, and sort out where funding is coming from.
"I think the National Government offer to help fund some of the civic amenities such as a museum, can be resurrected, but TCC needs to make a firm decision now, and show the courage required in creating CBD civic amenities that our City desperately needs, as the fifth largest city in NZ, but currently having the worst CBD and lacking civic amenities that smaller cities and towns already proudly own and use to attract visitors and residents into the heart of the CBD.” Currently, Tauranga City Council pays to store much of the museum collection in a warehouse.
“I think it would be better for council to contribute that same amount to a museum if it eventuated,” says Greg. “But the issue of funding the rest of the costs remains.”
“So we need to know the cost of both building and running a museum, and how much of that the Government can contribute. Then we need to know where the rest of the money will come from.”
Simon is optimistic regional council will support the museum.
“A number of people over the last few years have been sceptical of a massively expensive palace that no one visits,” says Simon.
“We don't need to make that mistake. We can do a reasonable job cost-effectively and many hands will make light work.”
Last year 71 per cent of Tauranga respondents to a poll commissioned by the MP gave a resounding ‘Yes' to the plan for a museum.
“If we don't act, the opportunity will be lost and the money will go elsewhere,” says Simon.
“I understand Rotorua is wanting more funding for cultural amenities.
“My view is that that funding should come here. It will be a very short-sighted bunch of leaders if we think we can keep on dithering.
“There's no point in mucking about on these things,” says Simon. “We've got to do the right thing.
“We're a 130,000 person city now. Every other city of 50,000 let alone 100,000 has a museum. I appreciate there's a lot of people who prefer the speedway or getting out on the water to being indoors in a museum.
“I get that, but it's still important that cities have these things and there are a lot of people who would deeply value it.
“It would be a real drawcard for the region and an amenity that brings people in as we try and foster our growing tourism offering.”
The RCHF is a contestable fund of last resort. Applicants have to show they have already secured funding from local government and philanthropic contributions on the ‘one-third, one-third, one-third' principle.”
• $368,000 towards Hamilton's Meteor Theatre redevelopment;
• $1.5 million towards Whakatane's Museum and Research Centre redevelopment;
• $10 million to Whanganui's Sarjeant Gallery - tagged towards the redevelopment and seismic strengthening of its heritage-listed Queen's Park building;
• $400,000 to the Whanganui Museum for its redevelopment;
• $1.5 million towards the restoration of the Nelson School of Music's auditorium;
• $110,000 towards Gore's Eastern Southland Gallery project to establish a Muka Studio Wing for its arts centre.
The second round closes March 10 with successful applicants announced within a few months.