Council gifts land for $13m art museum

Artist's impression of proposed Ravenscar Museum.
Canterbury Museum

Artist's impression of proposed Ravenscar Museum.

Land in Rolleston Ave will be gifted to Canterbury Museum so it can push ahead with a planned new $13 million art museum.

Christchurch City councillors voted unanimously to gift the land, worth $5m, after receiving strong public support for the proposal. 

The council received 144 submissions from the public on the proposed land gift, of which 128 favoured the move.

The land gift means Canterbury Museum can push ahead with its proposal to transform a car park and public toilets on Rolleston Ave into a museum housing a significant collection of New Zealand art, including 110 Kiwi paintings from the 19th century to the present day. The collection includes five paintings by Colin McCahon and 10 by Frances Hodgkins.

The collection was started by Christchurch couple Jim and Susan Wakefield in the early 1990s. It was displayed in a large private home the couple built on Scarborough Head near Sumner.

Ownership of the home and collection was transferred to the charitable Ravenscar Trust in 1999 with a plan for it to be gifted to the city in the future. The 2011 Canterbury earthquakes destroyed the home, but the collection was saved and put into storage.

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The plan for the collection's new home involves the Ravenscar Trust paying for construction of the new $13 million museum space and underground car park with insurance proceeds from the Scarborough Head house. The completed building and land would then be owned by the Canterbury Museum.

The new museum would be operated jointly by the trust and the Canterbury Museum, while the collection would remain in trust ownership. The trust would fund the construction from an insurance settlement for the original Scarborough home and their own funds.

"This is overwhelming act of generosity," said Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

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The new art museum was not only a gift for Christchurch but for the wider Canterbury region and would allow people the opportunity to see "wonderful treasures" that they could not normally view because they were in storage.

Cr Tim Scandrett said while the council would lose between $100,000 and $120,000 a year in revenue from the Rolleston Ave carpark, that paled in comparison to what it would gain.

"The greater gift to the city is huge," said Scandrett, who chaired the hearings panel that considered the public submissions.

Cr Jamie Gough said he though the new arts museum would be something Christchurch residents would love.

"The generosity of the Ravenscar Trust and the Wakefields far outweigh — on a monumental scale — the cons. This is an incredible gift to the city ... and I'm very excited about this," Gough said.

Construction of the new museum is expected to start in late 2016 or early 2017. The aim is to open it to the public in 2018.

The Rolleston Ave land will return to the council at no cost if the museum does not receive resource consent, or if construction of the building is unable to be completed within a reasonable timeframe.

 - Stuff

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