More money sought for project plans and costings

Oamaru's Forrester Gallery redevelopment project has failed to secure $3 million in this year's funding rounds, and an additional request for $1.5 million is also expected to be denied.

The Forrester Gallery. Photo: ODT files
The Forrester Gallery. Photo: ODT files

As a result, the planned $6 million amalgamation of the Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Waitaki District Archive would require access to more of the $1.9 million the Waitaki District Council had pledged to the project, council community services group manager Dr Thunes Cloete said.

But, he said, the project would not require additional money from the council.

The council's cultural facility development committee needed to create final detailed plans and cost estimates before the redevelopment could expect to receive external funding, and the committee was asking for an increase of $330,000 in its spending cap for stakeholder engagement and detailed plans.

''It's just too early at this stage [to receive external funding],'' Dr Cloete said. ''It's been coming for more than 10 years, so another six months, do we call it a setback? No, I don't think so.''

Dr Cloete's report to council, to be tabled at its meeting on Wednesday, shows the regional cultural and heritage fund did not approve $2 million because it required detailed plans and a final costing; the lottery environment and heritage committee did not approve $1 million because other applicants were assessed as having fewer funding options for projects that were ''more advanced''; a decision on a requested $1.5 million from the lottery significant projects fund was forthcoming, but the request was expected to be denied due to the requirement for final plans and costings; and a decision from the Otago Community Trust for $600,000 was also forthcoming this year.

Dr Cloete said the general feedback from the funding bodies had been positive and the denial of funding at this stage was not entirely unexpected.

At the end of March, the Waitaki District Council voted to increase its contribution to the project from a loan-funded $1.5 million to $1.9 million. the extra $400,000 coming from gallery depreciation reserves.

Of the $1.9 million, the committee was to use up to $500,000 to get the project ready to seek external funding and it had spent $400,000 of its cap so far. It now required an additional $330,000 to do the work needed to get the project to the stage the funding bodies expected.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the council was trying to be ''a wee bit smart and not spend the money if we weren't going to be successful [in its funding applications]''.

''In essence, they require the full plans and everything so they don't end up funding a project that has some fatal flaws... but the problem is, for us, that you've got to spend a whole lot more money without the guarantee. We were a bit cheeky, but we felt that we could work with them after the fact and make sure that the plans met their criteria as we move forward.''

Dr Cloete said that, if granted the money to continue the project, the committee would have to ''get the community much more involved''.

The council will decide on the funding on Wednesday.


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