Rumours of library move are premature

The proposal to build a new museum, library and council offices for Kaikoura has been on the table since 2003 and a simple costings comparison for the various options is not likely to paint an accurate picture, says council chief executive officer Stuart Grant.

Mr Grant said on Monday the costs for each individual proposal could not be accurately compared. However, to set the record straight, the Pynes building in West End has never been considered for the museum, and its use has only ever been suggested by one member of the community during the submission processes.

The Pynes building was bought by council in 2010, the rationale being that it was an empty space in the middle of town and it could be made use of by small local businesses.

Mr Grant said the long-term plan for the building was to retain it as a commercial space and there had never been any intention of using it for the museum.

By the time the building was bought, he said, the Historical Society was looking at a combined building with the library, or council, or both.

The reason for the museum to be located with the library and council was that if volunteer numbers declined, council staff could help to run it. Mr Grant said most provincial museums were managed by district councils, although he agreed the plans for the new Kaikoura museum were grander than most small town museums and it would be likely that paid staff would run the museum.

The Cuddons building on Beach Rd has also been suggested as an alternative space for the museum, library or council offices at one time or another. Mr Grant said the building was initially identified by the Historical Society as having good potential for the museum, and it was bought with this in mind.

However, once plans were drawn up, the architect's recommendation was to bulldoze the building.

After consideration of the Beach Rd site, the council was approached by sports clubs who were also keen to be located in a community hub with the other services.

A site on Scarborough St was identified which would potentially house the museum, library, council offices, swimming pool and leisure complex.

However, this project was put on the back burner after the discussions led to a community-initiated attempt to abolish the council in 2008.

The previous year, a proposal was put to council for an enlarged library and museum for the existing library site in West End.

Council also considered constructing a two-storey building just to accommodate the council. But with a price tag of $6 million, this was soon dismissed.

Then in August last year a review of the proposed two storey library/museum complex indicated that a third storey could be added to accommodate the council offices for a fraction of the $6 million it would have cost to build a separate council building - just over $1 million for the third storey, making the cost for the entire project $4.357m.

If it goes ahead, the current council buildings could either be leased or sold, Mr Grant said, which would offset some of the cost of the new building.

"People who think this project is going to cost too much are just not being realistic," he said.

Council were keen to turn West End into the community hub and putting the museum, library and council services together would go a long way to helping shore up the area.

Rumours that the library staff have been told to pack up before Christmas were a little premature, he said. While a space is being prepared for the library to move into at the Harakeke Mall on Beach Rd, the building consent had not yet been issued for the civic building project and therefore there was little point moving anything yet.

Kaikoura Star