Plan to secure Canterbury Museum's future through $195m upgrade

Canterbury Museum. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Canterbury Museum. Photo: Geoff Sloan
A dark cloud will continue to loom over the future of Canterbury Museum and its collections if the facility is not upgraded.

The museum is seeking public input into a proposed $195 million redevelopment that is critical to its ability to remain open.

Director Anthony Wright has announced proposals for the redevelopment of the museum’s Rolleston Ave site.

He says the $195 million project is needed to protect the museum’s historic buildings and the 2.3 million objects in the collection, as well as to bring the interior up to the standard expected of a fit-for-purpose 21st-century museum.

“The museum cares for the buildings and the collection on behalf of the people of Canterbury," Wright said. 

"We have a responsibility to explain the need for the redevelopment to the wider Canterbury community.

"It’s really important that people give us feedback on the proposals and we will be considering it very carefully.”

Wright says there have been significant issues with the museum buildings for many years, particularly those built in the 20th-century, which were exacerbated by the earthquakes.

“Some of the buildings have a long list of problems and are either well past the end of their useful life, or need major upgrades.

"They are causing damage to the collections they are meant to protect."


Sewerage and water pipes run through collection stores, buildings leak and there’s minimal air conditioning and no insulation, so the temperature and humidity cannot be controlled, Wright said.

Said Canterbury Museum Trust board chairman David Ayers: “Bare wiring runs through corridors, water pipes through storerooms, there’s only one lift for the whole building, not enough toilets and we spend a lot of time patching up problems.

"Apart from earthquake strengthening in the 1980s and 1990s, which culminated in the 1995 Garden Court building, no major improvement work has been done since the 1970s.

“We simply cannot guarantee the safety of our collection under the current conditions, let alone effectively carry out the research and educational components of our work. We are also very limited in what we can do to improve our visitor experience and show off more of our collection,” said Ayers.

Proposals under consideration would mean more of the collection could be displayed and the return of popular exhibits such as the blue whale skeleton.

Currently, only 1 per cent of the collection can be displayed at any one time and some of the taonga have never been on public view.

“The Museum will continue to work with key stakeholders and will create a number of opportunities for the public to give us feedback before any plans are finalised and submitted for resource consent,” says Mr Wright.

“The proposal to redevelop the site is supported by key organisations and museum partners including the Canterbury Mayoral Forum and ChristchurchNZ.

"We are also working closely with Ngāi Tūāhuriri to ensure the redevelopment occurs in a genuine working relationship with mana whenua.”

The public can give their feedback from Saturday at

Public and stakeholder input is expected to be completed in time for a resource consent application to be lodged in November. Funding for the proposed redevelopment has been estimated at $195 million.

The museum already has more than half of the money needed, including funds allocated to the project by the four contributing local authorities (Christchurch City Council and the Waimakariri, Hurunui and Selwyn district councils) as part of their obligations under the Canterbury Museum Trust Board Act 1993.

“The museum is in active discussions with other possible funders and is developing a business case seeking funding from central Government to complete the funding plan,” Wright said.

“We have also made a submission to Crown Infrastructure Partners for the proposed redevelopment to be considered a 'shovel ready' project that could receive Government funding as part of a stimulus package to assist New Zealand’s economy post Covid-19."






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