Mayor: $35m Whanganui redevelopment has potential “to bring millions”

An artist’s impression of the Sarjeant Gallery Warren Mahoney extension. Image: Sarjeant Gallery

PRESS RELEASE: Whanganui District Council

Whanganui District Council has thrown its weight behind a proposed $34.9m re-development of the historic Sarjeant Gallery to help secure $16m of government funding that will get the project across the line.

Mayor Hamish McDouall said the conditional government funding depends on specific fundraising targets being met by December 20, resulting in the council’s decision to act as a guarantor for $3.9m dollars that has yet to be raised.

“The Sarjeant Gallery Trust has raised 90% of the required funding to date which is an outstanding achievement,” said McDouall.

“Our confident expectation is that the remainder will be achieved through fundraising and that in the final analysis, this amount will not be required at all from the Council.”

He said the decision is not expected to have any immediate financial impact for the council and no funding will be sought for the redevelopment project as part of the 2018-2028 Long Term Plan process.

“The redevelopment of the Sarjeant Gallery has the potential to bring millions of dollars into our local economy,” said McDouall.

The national significance of the gallery and its remarkable and extensive collection had already attracted cash and pledges from outside the region of around $20m – including the conditional government funding.

Mayor McDouall said councillors went into confidence to make the decision.

“As part of the process we needed to consider the context of existing contributions and pledges from private individuals and we did not want to compromise their privacy.

“I am personally delighted our council has reached this decision. It sends a strong message that we are invested in growth and development for Whanganui.”

Trust chair Nicola Williams said the endorsement from Whanganui District Council is vital in helping ensure the preservation of a heritage building and a nationally significant collection that includes works spanning 400 years of international and New Zealand art history.

“I believe this is a forward-thinking move from a progressive and positive council and we are now entering a new and exciting phase of our capital raising plan,” said Williams.

“The Sarjeant Gallery is an extraordinary and valuable asset for Whanganui and it also occupies an important place in New Zealand’s national and regional arts infrastructure.

“Whanganui ratepayers can be absolutely assured that fundraising efforts will be continuing as we seek support from corporates and small business, individuals, philanthropists and charitable trusts around the country who share our passion for the gallery and the Sarjeant collection.”

In the same meeting, the council adopted a procurement plan to engage a main contractor for the Sarjeant Redevelopment. The plan includes a guaranteed maximum price contract which will ensure there are no cost escalations during the construction period.

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