Councillors favour ambitious gallery expansion

Melanie Tavendale
Melanie Tavendale
The Waitaki District Council will seek external funding to complete a $3.4 million expansion of Oamaru’s public art gallery, the Forrester Gallery.

Waitaki deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale found favour with the majority of councillors on Tuesday as she led the argument for the most ambitious of the three options council staff presented for the upgrade — and ‘‘future-proofing’’ — of the Heritage New Zealand Category 1, 1882 Thames St art gallery.

Cr Tavendale also added 5% to the project budget, which was to come from funding sources other than the council, for an independent project manager to be attached to the project.

‘‘This has been a labour of love for so many people,’’ she said.

‘‘We are still working in the cost envelope of what was first brought forward.

‘‘We’re voting for the same council contribution, no matter what.’’

Cr Tavendale argued the expanded gallery site was an opportunity to make a ‘‘huge improvement for our community’’ that would include a gallery space large enough to take on the average 120sq m requirement for touring exhibitions, as well as the inclusion of an educational space.

‘‘It’s a cultural element that we’re missing really, really badly,’’ she said.

Council projects and assets officer Grant Rhodes said the total additional exhibition space for each of the three options presented to councillors was 158sq m, 286sq m, and 438sq m respectively.

In July last year the council decided to upgrade the gallery on its own after it dropped seven-year-old amalgamation plans with the nearby North Otago Museum and Waitaki District Archives.

At that time, the council lost some of the external funding it had been awarded for the amalgamation, but it retained $1,064,500 for the so-called ‘‘cultural facilities development project’’ to improve accessibility of the site. A passenger lift was included in all three options presented on Tuesday.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and Cr Ross McRobie voted against proceeding with the largest expansion on offer yesterday.

Cr McRobie asked council people and culture group manager Lisa Baillie how confident she was the council could secure the nearly $1million difference in funding between the $2,449,000 and $3,361,000 expansion options and asked whether the figures provided by council staff had been peer-reviewed.

Mr Kircher questioned the staff assertion that an educational space could not be included in the $2,449,000 expansion and warned against ‘‘project creep’’.

Mrs Baillie said there were ‘‘a number’’ of targets for applications for external funding and the project scale could be revisited if the funding target was not met.

Mr Rhodes said the funding requirements included in the report had been produced with the assistance of a third party.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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