Bohemian Museum needs home

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014
The Bohemian Museum

MOVING ON: The Bohemian Museum needs new premises but time is of the essence.

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The arrival of a letter at the Puhoi Historical Society from MP Chris Finlayson has created a stir in the village.

News of the letter set off a rumour that council owned land in the village was part of a treaty settlement for a South Island iwi.

Similar letters, asking for the return of any Ngati Rarua artefacts, were sent to around 180 museums around the country as part of their Treaty of Waitangi settlement, ratified in September 2013.

But it seems news of the letter had people speculating council land in the village, which the society hopes to use to build a dedicated Bohemian settlers museum, was now being considered as part of a southern claim, Puhoi Historical Society president Sue Tisdall says.

The iwi's area of interest is at the top of the South Island, around the Nelson and Buller regions. Some land, in a copy of the settlement that came with the letter, has names also found in the north like Wairoa Pa, Whanganui Inlet and Westhaven, fuelling the rumour.

The society will be keeping touch with the iwi, she says.

When the Puhoi settlers first arrived they had a tough time and might well have starved if not for the generosity of Maori who gave them food from their village gardens at Wenderholm.

So the historic society has a lot of sympathy for Maori issues, she says.

The society wants the Auckland Council to let them build a museum on council land next to the river, across the road from the fire station.

The land which is on two levels is the site of an historic ox-drawn dray, and on the lower level is an open area which has a flag pole and a rotunda gifted to the village by the makers of the film The Tommyknockers, part of which was filmed in the village in the 1990s.

The Bohemian Museum is now housed in a classroom of the old convent school, part of a hallway in the school buildings and a garage next door.

The buildings are owned by the Catholic Church, Ms Tisdall says.

Under new earthquake safety regulations the building needs strengthening. But that work cannot be done while the museum is there.

The lease for the rooms ran out last year, but the church has let the museum stay for now, Ms Tisdall says.

The rich Bohemian history of the area is a drawcard for visitors to the historic village and the northern region, the incorporated society which preserves and displays heirloom pieces connected with the settlers gets no funding from the council.

Instead they rely on grants from the ASB and lotteries commission, Ms Tisdall says.

With local residents generally supportive, the society wants council permission for a purpose-built museum for the collection on the upper level of Ahuroa Rd land where the dray now sits.

If the council agrees, the building would be a single level structure, in keeping with other historic buildings, and extending out partially over the lower level with supports, the dray moved underneath.

Ms Tisdall has been talking to the council for more than a year about their plans, including supplying three sets of building plans. Two sets had apparently been "lost" she says.

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But as time pressure mounts she is still unsure whether they will get permission.

"While confirming the application has been received no further details around progress, timing, etc, yet, as it is in the very early stages of this process," a council spokeswoman says.

- Rodney Times

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