Government seeks to buy back museum building

23:49, Jun 03 2014

The Government is looking to buy back Wellington's old National Museum building, less than 20 years after selling it.

If the deal goes ahead, a new war and conflict museum could be set up as part of Wellington's National War Memorial Park development in Buckle St.

The National Museum was closed to the public in 1996 after its exhibits were moved to Te Papa. The building and land were sold to a Tenths Trust subsidiary in 1997 for $2.25 million.

Ministry of Culture and Heritage chief executive Lewis Holden, who confirmed work was being done on the project, said it would be ironic if the Government bought it back. "But . . . it's a stunning building for a museum."

He said it could be "a realisation of the grand vision, [and] incorporating the museum into the memorial precinct would be the crowning glory".

The old museum, which is now used by Massey University, is on the hill behind the National War Memorial and carillon and overlooks the new memorial park, which will be officially opened next April.

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Massey acquired a half-share in the property and a long-term lease on the rest of it in exchange for spending about $30m strengthening and refurbishing the building.

It is now used by the university's College of Creative Arts, its fashion, textile and visual communication schools. The building also houses the pro vice-chancellor's offices.

Holden said former Defence chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones was working on a preliminary investigation of options for a museum, what support there was and the likely costs.

"We're aiming to be able to report back to ministers in the next couple of months."

The Dominion Post