Omaka plans take off after royal visit

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 08:58 18/07/2014
Sophie Stammers, Renee Paterson and Emma Pilcher

MASTERPLAN: Construction on a new WWII display at the Omaka Aviation Centre is expected to begin by the end of the year, in line with the final plan for the centre which could take up to 20 years to complete.

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A spike in visitor numbers at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre after the royal visit has been a welcome confidence boost in time for a new expansion.

Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre chief executive Jane Orphan said the lift in visitors was "undoubtedly" down to publicity from the April 10 visit of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

The royal visit was an endorsement of the museum and helped "boost the confidence" to move forward with the new extension, she said.

Construction on a new World War II hangar was hoped to be under way by the end of the year.

The World War II display was always on the cards when the idea for the aviation museum was raised in the mid-90s, but it was put aside when Sir Peter Jackson said he had enough World War I aircraft to fill the whole building, Orphan said.

Aircraft from World War II, including the British twin-engined Avro Anson, which was a favourite of Prince William's during his visit, were housed at the Omaka airfield but needed a more permanent home, she said.

The World War II display would be housed in two hangars, replicating the World War I display, but work would begin only on the first of the two hangars. The building was estimated to cost more than $1 million, Orphan said.

There was no time frame for when the second hangar would be built, as it depended on available funds, she said.

World War II aircraft were what people wanted to see, she said.

Resource consent for the new building had been completed, and contracting engineers were confirming the design and creating building drawings in order to apply for consent and seek tenders.

The display was part of a "masterplan" to expand the building, with a "golden ages" of aviation (1920s and 30s) planned for the future.

In April, 4754 people visited the museum, almost double the attendance in April last year.

Visitor numbers in May increased by 58 per cent, while February also topped the charts, with more visitors than any previous February since the museum opened in 2006.

The royal visit came at a good time, as visitor numbers dropped between August and December last year.

Orphan attributed the "flat period" to the earthquakes that rattled Marlborough in July and August.

People had come from Australia after seeing the museum on television during the royal visit, she said.

"It was the best possible promotion we could ever have," she said.

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- Marlborough

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