Lotteries grant means Len Lye centre funded

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014

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Critics said it would never be done, but all the money for building the Len Lye Centre has been found.

The New Zealand Lottery Grants Board yesterday confirmed a $2.695 million grant, ensuring that the $10m budget for building the centre plus $1.5m for the fit-out of both the centre and its cinema will be met through external funding.

Naysayers have always said the centre would become a burden on ratepayers whose money should not be frittered away on an art gallery.

But the drivers of the project are thrilled the hard work to find external funding has been rewarded.

"Len used to talk about happy moments. This is truly one of them," chairman of the Len Lye Foundation John Matthews said.

"I'm over the moon," Len Lye committee chairman Lance Girling-Butcher said.

"It's just absolutely marvellous."

The lotteries funding not only removes the need for rates or borrowing to build and fit out the centre, it also means the council will not have to call upon a TSB Community Trust underwrite pledged in 2012.

Govett-Brewster director Simon Rees said the financial support reflected the importance of museums, of Len Lye, and of contemporary art to the people of New Zealand.

Mayor Andrew Judd said it was a great effort from all parties involved including council staff, the Len Lye Centre Trust and the Len Lye Foundation.

He also recognised the contributions of the funders - central government, Todd Energy, the TSB Community Trust and private donors.

TSB Community Trust chairman Hayden Wano said the board had been confident the council and committee would raise the funds when they pledged the underwrite.

He acknowledged the hard work and dedication of the Len Lye Centre's supporters and said the funding could now go back into the pool for potential support of other big community projects.

Prominent critics of the project John McLeod and Morris West remained staunch in their opposition.

"Good on them, but I still think it's a waste." Mr McLeod said.

Mr McLeod said despite the external funding, there was still far too much cost to the ratepayer through purchase of the property, consents and maintenance.

"I like art, but I'm not keen on spending money on art, there's more important social issues we should be spending our ratepayers' money on.

And he has vowed never to set foot in the Len Lye Centre.

"You'll never catch me in that place."

Project opponent Morris West said the only good thing about the grant was that it meant ratepayers were spared.

"It's not going to attract the thousands that they talk about."

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Mr West said giving the money to the Len Lye Centre meant other more deserving sporting and artistic ventures missed out.

Mr Girling Butcher said the centre would be a huge drawcard for visitors to New Plymouth.

"If you look at what other cities have, no one's got anything like the Len Lye Centre.

"Architecturally it's a great contribution to carry on from the likes of Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and on the engineering front it's a reminder of how advanced we are in that field."

- Taranaki Daily News

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