Work on museum and art gallery progressing

Work towards reimagining Southland’s museum and art gallery is progressing at pace with a new name and vision to tell the stories of Southland leading the way.

Invercargill City Council committed in its Long Term Plan to invest $39.4 million to redevelop the city’s museum and art gallery, which was closed in 2018 due to significant earthquake risks.

A Governance Group was formed in August to reimagine the museum and art gallery and make recommendations to Council on the best outcomes to deliver a future cultural facility in the city.

Group Chair Rex Williams said they had made significant progress in creating a vision statement for the future facility and established critical sucess factors for its future.

“The vision for this future cultural facility is coming together and we are working towards exploring the stories of Murihiku Southland,” he said.

“It will be unique to Invercargill and Southland, a reflection of its people, which will leave the visitor with a deeper understanding of the history of Murihiku and New Zealand while being resilient, educational and flexible.”

Mr Williams said the facility should reflect connection with the region, land, sea and sky, involve he tākata through diversity and inclusion, be inspiring while aspiring to bring change, provide protection and engagement as well as value to the community.

The group has been gifted the name Te Unua, by Waihōpai Rūnaka Inc and Te Rūnanga o Awarua, as a working title for this stage of the project.

Group Rūnaka appointee Evelyn Cook said unua was a reference to the double hulled, voyaging waka as a reflection of several dualities – mana whenua and tauiwi, arts and museum, coast and urban, Aotearoa and the world.

“Unua speaks of journeys and exploration, of shared journeys and individual strands, the achievements of communities and individuals,” she said.

“The strength of Te Unua is that if both parts work together you can reach your ultimate destination.”

Council Group Manager Leisure and Recreation Steve Gibling said the working group was currently analysing the best possible location and storage solutions.

“This is a highly creative, exciting and crucial stage of the project and I’m thrilled with what is coming together so far,” Mr Gibling said.

“We are close to being able to put forward a functional brief and to develop options for the Council to review.”

He said the group was also focusing on what the customer experience must provide, how the services and facilities would be shared with mana whenua, how a strong educational programme would be supported and to ensure the design had a whole-of-life assessment of operating costs.

“The delicate balancing act of having vision as well as fiscal and community responsibility is being constantly demonstrated by this group – we’re in good hands and I’m excited to see what comes next.”

The governance group is led by chair Rex Williams, and also includes Rūnaka appointee Evelyn Cook, Gavin Bishop, Trish Lindsay, Lou Sanson, Roger Beattie and Simon Owen.