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Nelson Provincial Museum seeks $3m from TDC for planned new building

A concept drawing of a proposed archives, research and collections facility, earmarked for a Church St site adjacent to the Nelson Provincial Museum in central Nelson.

With the clock ticking on the life of the Isel Park Research Facility, Tasman Bays Heritage Trust is seeking funds to construct a new building adjacent to the Nelson Provincial Museum in central Nelson.

Trust chairwoman Olivia Hall and chief executive Lucinda Blackley-Jimson last week asked Tasman District councillors to match a $3 million commitment from Nelson City Council for the new building, a project the trust is calling the archives, research and collections (ARC) facility.

The $11.29m estimated cost of the ARC includes $820,000 for the 618 square metre Church St site, which the trust bought in 2019. It aims to construct the building in 2023-24.

Tasman Bays Heritage Trust is a council controlled organisation in which Tasman district and Nelson city councils have a 50:50 share. It is a charitable trust trading as Nelson Provincial Museum.

Blackley-Jimson said the trust held the Nelson-Tasman regional collection, one of the most significant in the country, which included the UNESCO-inscribed Tyree Studio Collection. Valued at about $20m, the regional collection comprised about 200,000 objects, 1.2m photographs and 150,000 original, rare and one-off paper documents.

Tasman Bays Heritage Trust chief executive Lucinda Blackley-Jimson, left, and chairwoman Olivia Hall on the Church St site of the planned new building, which is earmarked for construction in 2023-24. Behind them on the left is the Nelson Provincial Museum.

However, that collection was spread over three sites – the museum itself, on the corner of Trafalgar and Hardy streets, the Elms St Storage Facility and workshops, and the Isel Park Research Facility, which was opened in 1973.

Hall on Friday said problems with the Isel Park site had been long known. “It’s coming to the end of its useful life. There’s an urgency.”

Blackley-Jimson said the building had an estimated remaining life of five years although that life expectancy was less for some components including the plumbing and data cabling.

The roof of the Isel Park Research Facility is rusted and has problems with water tightness.

Hall told Tasman District councillors that potential funding sources included the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, larger funders such as the Rātā Foundation, community fundraising and the trust’s cash reserves, which it had already used to buy the Church St site. The trust also sought equal contributions from both councils.

“One of the issues for us is around the ability to go and get other external funding including central Government,” Hall said. “We need to have commitment from our local government entities first.”

In its Long Term Plan 2018-28, Nelson City Council made provision for $1.5m in 2020-21and $1.5m in 2021-22. Securing the same commitment from Tasman District Council in its LTP 2021-31 was “a key next step”.

Hall said she also understood that if TDC did not commit $3m, Nelson City Council may re-look at its planned contribution.

The Isel Park Research Facility site is at risk from flooding.

Some elected members raised concern about the central Nelson location for the development including councillor Dana Wensley.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that it is going to be in the Nelson CBD,” Wensley said. “There’s advantages in having the facility in Tasman – there’s foot traffic, there’s staffing, there’s accessibility.”

Councillor Barry Dowler said with a planned redevelopment of Trafalgar St, there would be “major reduced car parking areas” and the CBD would be under pressure for people visiting via cars.

Moutere-Waimea Ward councillor Anne Turley said the feedback from her constituents was that the museum was not centrally located for the wider region.

Councillor Chris Hill said boundaries were “a funny thing”.

“We’ve certainly got them between our two councils but not so much around where taonga or treasures or heritage items are found or where they’re from and where they belong and how they represent us all in a way,” Hill said. “What you hold there on behalf of us all and the nation really is just so important, so essential and I can see the sense in having something consolidated there.”

Councillor Kit Maling said the council had “challenges ahead of us” for the LTP.

Staff had noted the $3m funding request and project timeline “and it will be given due consideration when we have very robust debate over our Long Term Plan, he said.

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