Deputy Mayor Toni Biddle admits she has “unashamedly” lobbied her fellow Invercargill city councillors to back her motion fast tracking options for the Southland Museum.
Her colleagues will decide today at council’s Infrastructure Committee meeting whether to put pressure on the ICC – asking for all the options within five months.
Also chairperson of the museum board (SMAG), she said it had been suggested that if they enhanced the temporary space ‘He Waka Tuia,’ and did a really great job, then the council would present long-term options in two years.
“If we can’t afford a new museum then waiting another two years just doesn’t sit well with me. We need to put the pressure on,” she said.
The pyramid building was closed in April 2018 because of safety concerns, given it had been deemed earthquake-prone. But Toni said the board and previous boards had been talking about the redevelopment since 2013.
“There has been a lot of work and a huge amount of money invested in the project.”
In March, a report instigated by the museum board (SMAG) and prepared by Tim Walker was made public, recommending that the Southland museum building be retained and developed at a cost of $66m.
Toni admitted that may now not be realistic, after Covid-19 and with council’s focus on City Block, but waiting any longer to re-open the museum was just not an option.
Fellow councillor Nobby Clark said while he supported the motion, he felt it was a little “open-ended,” and believed ratepayers didn’t want to look at other options other than strengthening and re-opening the existing museum.
“It will end up costing $75 million to redevelop it and we just don’t have that money given our investment in City Block.”
He said the “elephant in the room” was the fact that the Long Term Community Plan was due in June 2021, and if no decision was made before then, no money would be allocated to the museum.
Toni agreed and was concerned that history would just keep repeating itself.
“Every time we have an LTCCP there is a lot of strategic planning work and a few discussions but it hasn’t been invested in appropriately.
“We need to determine the cost of everything,” she said.