Heritage centre - Mayor says do it right

18/09/2017 12:00 a.m.

​18 September 2017

Independent research has identified a "clear market" for a new Waipa discovery centre promoting the district's unique character and identity. 

But Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest says any formal proposal to build a new heritage-based facility for the district must "stack up" against other projects and be more than just a "flash new museum".

Three years ago, as part of its 2015-2025 10-Year Plan, the Council floated the concept of a new museum in Te Awamutu as part of a wider economic strategy and to showcase the district's heritage. It set aside $1.5 million to kick-start the project, noting external fundraising would be needed.

Since then, the Council has continued to "cautiously explore" a discovery centre concept with the potential to deliver core museum services, possibly function as an i-SITE and include an interactive discovery zone and exhibition space focusing on key themes from the Waipa district. 

The centre would act as a central point, housing some of the district's taonga and linking to Waipa's historical battle and cultural sites as well as natural attractions and facilities including cycle trails.

If it went ahead, the discovery centre would be based at the Te Awamutu hub near the new library, existing events centre and pool and linking to the rose gardens and the planned destination playground and bike skills park.  But it would be a facility telling stories of national significance, including the Waikato land wars. Many major battles were fought in Waipa.

Mylchreest said he wanted to draw attention to the project again so it could be considered as part of the draft 2018-2028 10-Year Plan to be released early next year.

"This is something we want the community to start thinking about before key decisions are made.  There's a lot of discussion to be had yet, including with iwi.  But if we want to do this – and that's yet to be decided -  we must do it right," Mylchreest said.

"All the research indicates that simply building a bigger, better museum is not the way to go.  We need to think much more creatively and ensure that whatever we develop is supported by key partners as well as external funders."

Recently the Council commissioned independent advice on what kind of facility would appeal to the public, have the potential to attract funding support and allow the Council to fulfil is legal responsibility to protect and promote the district's natural and cultural heritage.

A report from Angus & Associates said any discovery centre must "maintain a suitable balance between education and entertainment". It would need to be a "modern, high quality and interactive experience that appeals to family groups and is interesting for children if it is to successfully engage visitors," the report said.

Mylchreest said whether or not a discovery centre was supported by council and the community came down to vision, timing and funding. 

"Waipa has a great deal to share and an important story to tell so there's no question the vision is there.  Waipa's battle sites and outstanding natural landscapes and facilities are nationally significant," he said.  

"Done well, this could be a key lever for economic development. What we need to do now is really nail the concept, ascertain what kind of support there is and see how a potential discovery centre development could enhance wider plans for the district."

​Plans for a Waipa heritage centre based at Te Awamutu could include:

  • a new space to house and showcase Waipa's unique taonga (treasures)
  • changing exhibition spaces and interactive zones that tell Waipa's unique stories
  • stories that connect to sites of significance around the district
  • a research centre able to offer research services to the community
  • a base for school and education programmes
  • the Te Awamutu i-SITE
  • spaces for the community to gather.

Media enquiries, contact: Natalie Palmer, 027 807 3174

Page reviewed: 20 Sep 2017 1:44pm