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Exhibition centre still up in the air

MARNIE HALLAHAN
Last updated 09:26 14/02/2013
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FOR ART'S SAKE: The old Takapuna library building retains its original look in the scaled back plans for the Shore Exhibition Centre.

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The group campaigning to get a museum-standard exhibition centre on the North Shore is caught in a "chicken and egg" situation, Devonport Takapuna Local Board member Jan O'Connor says.

The Shore Exhibition Centre Trust's request for a three-year lease on the old Takapuna Library building on The Strand was once again turned down by the local board which is unwilling to give the project its full support.

Local board chairman Chris Darby admits that the situation is a "conundrum" for the trust.

Without solid funding commitments the local board will not agree to grant the trust a lease and without the certainty of a lease funders are hesitant to make a financial commitment to the trust.

It will now have to wait until September to hear whether the project meets the criteria for regional funding and support under the Auckland Council Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan.

That is yet another delay for the trust whose members include arts campaigners Genevieve Becroft and Ruth Ell and former Auckland Art Gallery director Christopher Johnstone.

"We know there are other great arts and cultural facilities on the North Shore but there is nothing that is of museum standard like elsewhere in the super-city," Mr Johnstone says.

Last September the trust asked the local board to endorse its project and grant the trust a three-year lease for the old Takapuna library building which is now a base for parking wardens.

But board members were concerned they would be lumped with the proposed $800,000 annual operating costs. The trustees were asked to go away and rework their business case into a more financially sustainable model.

They returned to last week's local board meeting after scaling the project back to a $4.7 million capital outlay with an operating cost of around $300,00 per year.

Mr Johnstone says the capital outlay expected from the council would be limited to $600,000 which would be used for the necessary seismic strengthening of the building and the installation of a passenger and goods elevator.

The balance of the capital cost would be raised over three years from community trusts and donations.

Also included in the new business case was community feedback in the form of a survey, conducted by council-approved firm Gravitas.

Board member Joseph Bergin, the centre's loudest opponent, criticised the the community survey saying that with only 110 respondents he was not satisfied there is much support for the exhibition centre.

The survey shows 91 per cent of respondents support the idea of a Shore Exhibition Centre. Almost 95 per cent of these also thought Takapuna, and specifically No 2 The Strand, is a suitable location for such a facility.

"We need to ask our community what they want from the building, not give them a proposal and say what do you think of this and call it consultation,' Mr Bergin says.

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