Don't take heart out of Te Papa, says mayor

22:15, Nov 16 2011
te papa north
NORTHERN TE PAPA: Robert Gillies' impression of what the proposed Te Papa North museum for Auckland might look like.

A proposed Auckland version of Te Papa could act as a "taster" for the real thing in Wellington – but it should not take the heart out of the national museum, Wellington's mayor says.

A planning group for "Te Papa North" is calling for a new building on Auckland's waterfront that would match Wellington's Te Papa for exhibition space.

Te Papa chief executive Mike Houlihan has backed the plan, which is led by veteran arts commentator and long-time Te Papa critic Hamish Keith, who said only a small proportion of the national collection was on display for visitors to Wellington – never mind the 1.2 million people in Auckland.

"Te Papa itself has had some discussions for a very long time about building a second building next door to itself. We're saying let's take the pressure off and build a building that's about 800km away."

The 24,000-square-metre building would rotate exhibitions from Te Papa's collection as well as popular attractions like the Lord of the Rings exhibition.

Mr Keith estimates it would draw at least a million visitors annually, compared with 1.5m visitors to Te Papa.

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Mr Houlihan, who is on the planning group, is travelling in China, but has previously indicated support for sharing Te Papa's resources more widely.

Asked if the idea could hurt Wellington's audience numbers, Te Papa spokesman Phil McGrath said it was too early "to know about impact on visitor numbers or other building-related solutions".

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the Auckland project could be a "taster" for Wellington's bigger museum, but it was still at an early stage.

"We would be concerned if the idea of having regional branches took the heart out of Te Papa ... They need to be careful not to dilute the Te Papa brand."

A spokesman for Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said the Government had no plans to fund new buildings for Te Papa's collection.

The Dominion Post