Work on the storage facility to house the Southland Museum and Art Gallery collection is officially under way after a site blessing and sod-turning event on Thursday morning.
The commencement of work at the storage facility marks the start of Project 1225, which will also deliver a new museum base build and tuatara facility by December 2025.
Last week, Councillors unanimously agreed that the planned storage facility would continue, along with the new museum and art gallery build, at an accelerated pace. The construction phase of the storage facility project had been paused to allow time for the new incoming Council to assess the planned programme for the museum rebuild.
On Thursday morning, a whakawātea was undertaken by mana whenua to bless the site, and the turning of the sod took place, marking the commencement of Project 1225.
Group Manager Leisure and Recreation Steve Gibling said the storage facility represented the coming together of the keepers of Southland’s stories in a place that best fitted their needs.
“It will be an incredible resource that will not only keep our taonga safe, but it will be a hub. Our incredible collections housed together will be accessible, and that’s important.”
This was the beginning of a great journey and he was grateful for mana whenua in helping take the first steps together along the right path with their blessing, Gibling said.
“I also want to thank the many, many members of Council staff and contractors who have worked so hard and for so long on this and other adjacent projects. No matter how we tell it, your part of the story is just as much an important chapter as the end.”
Also speaking at the event, Project 1225 Lead Councillor Nigel Skelt said it was the start of a journey that would see the past honoured well into the future.
“Today, the clock begins ticking. Project 1225 is ambitious and there is going to be a lot of incredibly hard work to be done. Our timeframe is, frankly, tight.
“But I firmly believe that when you work with the best, you can ask for miracles. I firmly believe that the team at Council, along with the contractors and others that we will choose to become part of this project absolutely have what it takes to make dreams come true. So, we’re dreaming big, starting today.”
Members of the Museum Governance Group attended the event, as well as Councillors, Council staff, representatives from Awarua and Waihōpai Rūnaka, and other members of the community with an interest in the museum.
Programme Director Lee Butcher said the new facility would provide a highly functional and performance-based controlled environment within a robust structure in a resilient location.
“We assessed and considered 18 sites throughout the city and this site was identified as the most appropriate because it met the seismic, liquefaction and flooding risk requirements.”
From Thursday, contractors ABL commence work on the 1650m2 storage facility that will include shelved areas for the various objects, cold storage areas, offices and workrooms, and a car park area. There will also be a public space where members of the community can view pieces of the collection for research purposes.
The facility is due to be completed in December 2023.
Earlier this year, the reserve status was changed after a request from Council to allow building of the storage facility on the site.
Butcher said he was glad all pieces were finally falling into place and that the project was now off the ground.
“This state-of-the-art facility will have sufficient security and storage measures in place to protect the taonga so they can be enjoyed for years to come.”
The 4.5 million items in the Southland Museum and Art Gallery collection are in the process of being carefully packaged up and will be moved to the storage facility following its completion.
The taonga chosen to be exhibited will be transferred to the new museum base build at Queens Park in time for its opening in late 2026.