Thrilled: Lakes District Museum boss David Clarke's over the moon with this mornings government funding announcement


City Hall’s stepped up to help save Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum.

At its full meeting on Thursday, council agreed to a loan-funded grant of $1.04 million, excluding GST, to go towards the district museum’s $3.5m earthquake-strengthening project.

Director David Clarke says while there’s still $2m to raise, the council’s decision “gives us a huge advantage in seeking other funding”.

“You require a third and there was no way we were going to be able to get a third through sausage sizzles and raffles.

“I think it’s recognition, on behalf of the councillors and the council, that we are the district’s museum and that we are a valuable asset and that we can’t be allowed to close.”

Clarke recognises some, though, won’t be thrilled about City Hall’s revised rate increase of 1.59 per cent, dragged down from the originally-proposed 6.76 per cent rise.

While some will be of the view the council’s there for “roads, water, footpaths and sewerage”, others know some facilities, like swimming pools, halls and museums, are there for the “greater good”, he says.

“And, in most communities of our size, the museum is part of the ratepayer-funded regime, like the libraries.

“But we’ve never been like that, and that’s been good and bad … this has just brought home to us that we need to be a bit more secure in terms of ratepayer funding.”

Clarke says the museum, run by an incorporated society, puts its hand up for an annual, contestable $100,000 grant from the council coffers – which equates to about $3 per ratepayer.

“Most people wouldn’t begrudge that … it’s not even a coffee.”

The museum’s still got its hand up for funding from central government – through the provincial growth fund – and there are also options through the tourism infrastructure fund and the cultural facilities fund, which Clarke says is a “fund of last resort” for museums and art galleries.

He’s hoping council’s commitment might make a co-funding arrangement with government  more realistic.

“The fact is the strengthening has been inflicted on us, and not of our own making – it’s easy for central government to say ‘this is what you must do’, but how do you then do it if you’re just an incorporated society?

“There must be others in the same predicament all around the country.”

Clarke says if government coughs up cash from the provincial growth fund, the nine-month project could start within the next two months, subject to building consent.

Alternatively, the board will target a February start date.

“It would be a good thing, realistically, to do in this quieter period.

“It is a big job – they’ve got to drill all those holes from top to bottom, they take about two days each and there’s 40 of those, then they’ve got to drill hundreds of holes through the side of the building to tie up with the ones that are drilled down through the top, so all the walls become a solid block … that won’t fall over.

“Then a new roof to tie it all in and then … we’re doing these parapets that take it back to its original design, so it’s going to look a lot different, but quite spectacular, I think.”