Support for gallery redevelopment

Redevelopment of the Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Archive has received general support, but some people are questioning the Waitaki District Council about the cost, site and whether the plan goes far enough.

Yesterday, the council was hearing verbal submissions on its 2015-25 long-term plan, which outlines projects, budgets and rates for the next 10 years.

The cultural facilities redevelopment was highlighted as one issue in the consultation document sent out to residents for comment.

Friends of Forrester, which has 120 members, supports a $4.45 million redevelopment on the gallery site, central to the Thames St business district and the historic area.

Vice-president John Chetwin said the development needed to enhance both institutions' exhibition and educational capabilities, enrich the experience of Waitaki residents and outside visitors and cater for the broadest range of people in terms of age and physical capability.

A lift between the three floors was vital.

''In particular, we wish to be assured the developed facility will significantly increase the available exhibition and education space.''

There should be exhibition spaces for permanent displays of regional and national importance.

Former museum director Bruce McCulloch supported redevelopment but had ''a couple of concerns''.

If the Oamaru Library was included, which dealt with similar clientele and visitors, there could be more savings.

He also asked if other sites had been considered, as location was ''absolutely critical'' to the success of the facility.

Mr McCulloch suggested using the historic area.

A member of the North Otago Art Society and Friends of the Library, Julia Sutherland, could see no sense in a cultural space divorced from the library, driven by the need to meet archive storage legal requirements.

Toni and Derek McLennan, who own the Steam cafe next to the gallery, favoured the $300,000 redevelopment option, which would have less economic impact, cause less disruption to surrounding businesses and the public while achieving the overall result wanted.

Grey Power North Otago was uneasy about the ''large increase in rates'' to pay for the redevelopment.

Moeraki resident Alison MacTavish was ''wholeheartedly behind the project'', but said local cultural and creative activity was also important and should be encouraged.

She wanted to see the council budget to buy and outfit a building for a modern library and information hub in Hampden, which had inadequate internet connection.



The choices

Waitaki Cultural Redevelopment options:

• Redevelop Forrester Gallery, North Otago Museum and Archive ''to create a unique experience, attracting more visitors and exhibitors''.

Option 1: Strengthen the existing buildings and upgrade archive - $300,000 in rates over eight years.

Option 2: Subject to securing external funding, combine gallery and museum on current gallery site, and upgrade archive in museum building with shared links to Oamaru Library - $8 million.

Option 3 (preferred): Develop current gallery building to house gallery, museum, archive and storage - $4.5 million.



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