City councillors today opened the museum debate to the public in a vote to add the proposed Cliff Road museum to the Long Term Plan discussions in the New Year.
Two councillors voted against it, Bill Grainger and Gail McIntosh, but the numbers were overwhelmingly in favour from the City Transformation Committee members recommendation of the Cliff Road site to the council on December 5.
The decision is that the council contribution for the estimated $50m project be capped at $15m towards the construction with another $5.65 towards access upgrades, traffic parking etc. It reduces the ratepayer contribution to 37.1 per cent of the total estimated costs.
Some councillors qualified their support. Catherine Stewart says the estimated annual operating costs of $7m give her concerns about the sustainability of the proposed museum, but she voted in favour so the public could have its say.
Steve Morris supported a museum at Cliff Road with the comment that the entire project will fail if it is not completed in three trienniums, or over two council terms.
Leanne Brown says she's still struggling with the location pros and cons.
“I think we can do it right and do it well at both locations,” says Leanne. Now she has seen the council budget for the next ten years she is more concerned about something affordable.
Mayor Greg Brownless supports it for consultation in the long Term Plan consultation process.
“I think we will hear about several things; one, the operational expenses which does seem to be rather high at the moment, and that's something we have really got to work on. The other thing is the capital expense. But the other day we made a decision to cap that, which was a step in the right direction.
“The other matter is the location, and I hear from people in all walks of life, some like Cliff Road, some the city centre. I think this next six months will allow us all to get a better handle on that.
“It will allow a better handle on the costs and hear what the community has to say. If it does turn out, and that would be almost for either location, then I think we do have to make a decision - do we want a museum or not, and not continue down the some blind path.
“That's the reason I will support it to this next stage.”
Tauranga Moana Museum Trust chairman Neil Te Kani and Technical Advisory Group chairman Graeme Horsley addressed the councillor before the vote.
Neil says the Trust's first concern is the decision to build the museum, then the discussion on where to site it will follow.
“In large part that discussion will be with iwi. They will have to have a large say because at the end of it a funding component emanates out of that as well,” says Neil.
He describes the museum as a: “Portal to the past, providing multi-layer experiences a sense of place for Tauranga Moana and enhance our children's engagement with history.
“We need a modern museum that will be a focal point for our community, a storage house for our taonga, an education facility for children and a destination for tourists and a hub that connects us better to the many historic sites.”
Graeme Horsley explained how the Cliff Road site was more or less overlooked in the early planning stages because of perceived planning difficulties. Because of a very restrictive planning framework staff and the consultants were led to believe that Cliff road was not a realistic option.
As a result TAG recommended that given the restraint Willow Street was preferable but recognised the immense historic value of Cliff Road and pushed for the development of a meeting house or cultural centre there.
“As we have progressed through this it's now fair to say the favouritism would now be to Cliff Road. Feedback from iwi is they favour Cliff Road,” says Graeme.
The Elms, the Mission Cemetery and the Monmouth Redoubt, the linkages with all the historic places are significant and make Cliff Road a logical place to locate the museum, says Graeme.