The terracotta warriors that were supposed to invade Napier next year have been stopped in their tracks by red tape.
The miniature warriors from Xuzhou, which has a sister-city relationship with Hawke's Bay Regional Council, were due to go on show in Napier's new museum next October.
But the Ministry of Culture and Heritage said this week it had not received an application from the museum for indemnity assurance.
Former mayor Barbara Arnott, who fronted the efforts to secure the exhibition, said the decision to delay the show by at least a year was "a real loss of face" for Napier. She found it hard to believe that paperwork was the reason for the holdup after three years of talks, including negotiations involving Culture Minister Chris Finlayson and Prime Minister John Key.
The director of Xuzhou Museum, home of the warriors, attended the September opening of Napier's new museum.
The warriors are miniature versions of the celebrated life-size warriors of Xi'an, and were discovered in China in 1984. One fullsize Xi'an warrior was also to have featured in the exhibition.
At the time it was announced, Mrs Arnott said it was expected to attract 35,000 visitors from throughout New Zealand. "The exquisiteness of the carving from 2000 years ago, even on items as small as a spoon or a paperweight, is breathtaking."
A report estimated the show would benefit the city by between $2.2 million and $6.3m.
Museum director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins said last week that the longest part of the process was applying to have the ministry insure the collection of 100 warriors, which are each about the size of a large water bottle.
"It's $50 million of objects," he said. "The ministry has said the deadline for an [October] exhibition is not possible."
The ministry set a "high bar" for underwriting exhibits, he said, and Napier needed more time to get the process right.
"But there's no lack of enthusiasm on the part of the ministry, the museum or the [Napier city] council."
It was also a concern that Te Papa was planning a major Chinese exhibition about the same time, which could potentially put Wellingtonians off making the trip to Napier, he said. "People from Wellington are a very large part of our audience."
Mayor Bill Dalton said senior council staff were working closely with the Chinese. "They are very comfortable with our position and the discussions are being very carefully handled.
"Our relationship with the Chinese is extremely important and we're very mindful that that relationship has to be handled with a great deal of respect."
- The Dominion Post
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