Forrester Gallery full of surprises

Melanie Tavendale
Melanie Tavendale
Oamaru's 1882 public art gallery - closed for maintenance since the end of last year - has presented ''surprise after surprise after surprise'', Waitaki deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale says.

A $575,000 budget for remediation and capital works for the Heritage New Zealand category 1 registered Forrester Gallery, in Thames St, received Waitaki District Council approval this week.

A targeted reopening of the gallery in July 2019 was also approved.

The discovery of toxic mould in the upstairs gallery in December forced the building's closure; consequent investigations found mould throughout the building and asbestos in some areas.

Fire compliance issues had also been identified.

With the gallery closed capital upgrades - including removing a mould and asbestos-affected kitchen area ($30,000), installing a first-floor kitchenette ($5000), fire compliant ceilings and doors ($150,000), a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system ($100,000) and emergency lighting ($20,000) - would be easier to do now, council projects and assets officer Grant Rhodes said.

More than 50% of the building was now disturbed by the remediation work and doing the capital work now would not require another closure of the gallery.

Before this week's council meeting, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said work done on the gallery now would be the first step towards a planned upgrade of the gallery.

''We had hoped to have it open by the end of January, but you don't know until you open up the walls and it probably wasn't the worst-case scenario, but it was probably down at that end of the spectrum.''

Cr Guy Percival voted against the decision. Cr Hugh Perkins sent apologies.


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