Museum hopeful for ‘shovel-ready’ largesse

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By HUGH COLLINS

Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum is waiting with bated breath for the outcome of two applications it’s made to fund critical earthquake-strengthening work for its original historic building.

Well before the Covid-19 lockdown the museum’s former Bank of New Zealand building, built in 1865, was marked as earthquake-prone, requiring a $3.5 million strengthening project by 2025.

In February, Mountain Scene reported a failure to meet the deadline will likely result in the museum’s closure.

Director David Clarke speculates the government might now have to extend the deadline given the current construction slow-down, but exploratory drilling of the museum was successfully completed in March.

Subsequently, the museum’s applied to the government’s ‘shovel-ready’ fund – an initiative announced in March to help support infrastructure projects that can start almost immediately to help boost the economy.

While the government says projects need to be worth at least $10m to qualify, Clarke’s confident its application will get the nod.

“They did state that smaller communities might have projects that didn’t cost $10m,” Clarke says.

“It’s a worthy project that would help stimulate the construction industry and give people jobs.”

The museum’s also applied to Queenstown Lakes District Council’s annual plan for a third of the funding, Clarke says.

“Anyone can submit to the annual plan to get projects or funding … council then say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’.”

If the second funding avenue’s successful, the museum can then apply to funding agencies, like the Lotteries Commission, which require a third of the money ready to go.

Clarke says the museum’s funding campaign’s a bit like putting two horses into a race and seeing which one wins.

But, council may look to cut back on community project funding given the current economic climate.

“I keep crossing fingers and toes that we’ll be able to get the money, it’s the perfect time to do the works while it’s quiet.”

He’s expecting to know the outcomes of both applications this month.

The museum is one of the district’s few cultural facilities, operating for over 70 years.

Clarke says he’s “realistically optimistic” about the museum’s survival in the Covid-19 era.

“Yes, I think we will get through this, we’ve got a fantastic product … we’re a cheap educational attraction, we’re probably the cheapest thing you can do in the district.”

To date, the museum’s spent $200,000 on consultants, and has another $350,000 to go.

hugh.collins@scene.co.nz