The Sarjeant Galley Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui, in Queens Park, is temporarily closed for earthquake strengthening and a major redevelopment project.
This building was constructed in 1919, largely of unreinforced masonry, and is rated at only 5% of the current new building code.
The relocation is part of a larger redevelopment project for which a fundraising strategy, including application to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s Regional Museums Policy for Capital Projects, is under way.
The final redevelopment will see the original Gallery strengthened, together with new storage and exhibition facilities constructed to the north of the original building.
Senior curator Greg Anderson said several large pledges had helped the gallery get over the line for triggering a matching contribution from the government towards a $34m redevelopment project.
He said the Sarjeant was now awaiting Ministry of Culture and Heritage sign-off. The Whanganui council has pledged a further $5m and the gallery has set a 31 December deadline for finding the remaining money.
It seems therefore that the financial goal has been reached for this renovation. Although this is a very commendable effort is this the best use of finances to earthquake proof (how long is a piece of string???) and extend the gallery.
The building itself is certainly iconic but does it have to be an art gallery? Wanganui has an underrated/under-promoted observatory with a telescope rumoured to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere. It would enhance both attractions if the telescope was incorporated into the “former” art gallery. Walking up the stairs to reach the stars would be a part of the journey!!!!
The present position of the Art gallery is very accessible to citizens and visitors. However, future flooding may be an issue. Perhaps converting the War Memorial Hall to the Art Gallery could address this issue, making it more accessible to the less mobile, walking distance from Mainstreet and in a group with the Museum and Observatory.
I would challenge that it also would be a more efficient and effective use of our money