Situation deepens at transport and toy museum

National Transport and Toy Museum curator Jason Rhodes hopes his hole in the ground will be...
National Transport and Toy Museum curator Jason Rhodes hopes his hole in the ground will be completed in about 18 months. Digging began in April last year. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
When it comes to holes in the ground, Queenstown and Wanaka residents know how to dig them.

Queenstown has had a notable hole at the entrance to the town on State Highway 6 for some years, and now Wanaka has its not-so-little sister.

Wanaka's hole is in land owned by the National Transport and Toy Museum near Wanaka Airport and was started about a year ago.

Eventually, it will contain an 18m-high, 58m-wide, 120m-long, five-storeyed exhibition hangar, with 9m of the building being set underground so it complies with resource consent conditions and height restrictions at the airport.

Queenstown's Five Mile hole near Queenstown Airport was originally intended to be a vast underground car park for hundreds of vehicles in a $2 billion development that later went into receivership.

The original developer had 350,000cu m of earth removed before concrete was poured in 2007, but the hole has sat emptily beside SH6 ever since and its new owners are now thinking about filling in a large part of it.

Wanaka's hole, unlike Queenstown's, is not visible from SH6, so has not attracted much public attention.

But it is now nearly 9m deep, 58m wide and 60m long.

Museum curator Jason Rhodes obtained resource consent for a 80m-long building last year, which will be added to an existing building in front of it to total 120m in length. It will be built in stages, as exhibition space is required.

Mr Rhodes said this week it could be another 18 months before the hole is finished. By that time, at least 120,000cu m of earth should have been removed.

"We need it, to future-proof what we are doing, for we are running out of space," he said.

The new building will house thousands of exhibits collected by Mr Rhodes' Christchurch-based father and collector, Gerald Rhodes, who has supplied so many items they cannot all be on display, and is still sending more items as he finds them.

Upper Clutha Transport Ltd will continue digging and screening this winter with the intensity dictated by demand for the gravel and rocks.

The site has provided materials for the new Wanaka Primary School being constructed at Scurr Heights, projects being undertaken by the Department of Conservation and Queenstown Lakes District Council and for landscapers.

Rocks have also been used in a new wall outside the museum.

Mr Rhodes said he was happy to give rocks away to anyone who asked.

He does not have a date when the building will be finished.

"It is one of those things. If we can get it [the hole] finished over the next 18 months, that would be nice. We are getting into it now ... If I were to push ahead with the project, we would have to find somewhere to put all this material," he said.

The museum recently went through a rebranding exercise and has changed its name from the Wanaka Transport and Toy Museum to the National Transport and Toy Museum.


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