Heritage centre an almighty effort

Waikouaiti museum committee chairman Bill Lang at the site of the Waikouaiti Coastal Heritage...
Waikouaiti museum committee chairman Bill Lang at the site of the Waikouaiti Coastal Heritage Centre building under construction behind the existing museum. Photo: Gregor Richardson
If determined fundraising and prayer had anything to do with it, the new Waikouaiti Coastal Heritage Centre would be up and running by the end of the year.

"We do a lot of praying," a Waikouaiti District Museum Society member said  on Tuesday.

But committee chairman Bill Lang, who designed the purpose-built annexe under construction behind the existing museum, said the opening date for the new centre essentially depended on funding.

Mr Lang, who has worked in New Zealand, Australia and the UK as a museum conservation engineer since 1987, is the driving force behind the new heritage centre.

He set up a firewood business as a fundraiser, using local volunteers to help cut and split logs. Over two or three years, working a few mornings a week, the group had moved 1416 cubic metres of firewood and the business had contributed more than $100,000 towards the cost of the new building.

Two macrocarpa posts flanking the main entrance to the new annexe were donated by the Dempster property at Flag Swamp. Mr Lang’s decision to use those pieces of wood for construction rather than firewood demonstrated his innovative approach to keeping building costs down without sacrificing quality.

The total cost of the new building was about $500,000. Builders were now working on the large "technology doors" at the main entrance. Once those had been installed and the windows were completed, painting work could start. The annexe should be at the "lock-up" stage in two to three weeks, Mr Lang said.

The new centre, to be built from weatherboard, had the appearance of a "traditional" building and fitted in well with the adjacent 1869 Grade One listed bank building.

The 400sq m annexe would house a reception area, collection storage and conservation, a workshop, staff room and public research facilities.

A great deal of thought had gone into the project over the years, Mr Lang said.

The floor slab of the new annexe was a rib raft type with underfloor hydronic heating cast into the slab. There would be an airlock at the main entrance, and between the annexe and the atrium behind the RA Lawson bank building.

The project had received funding from sponsorship, Lotteries grants,  the Otago Community Trust, JR Stout Trust, Oceanagold and the Alexander McMillan Trust. 

The committee was also very grateful to the many volunteers who had given hours of work, and to the local families who had made donations, Mr Lang said.

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