Southland district museums in the spotlight

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TE ANAU is about to get its own museum again.
The Fiordland Museum Trust has purchased the Alpine Centre Cafe & Bar and takes over this week.
The trust operated a small museum in the Department of Conservation (Doc) visitor centre until Doc took over the space.
Trustee Russell Beck, the former director of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery, said the trust bought the centre, on the edge of the town, because it was a suitable building for a museum and it already had a cafe.
He was unsure when alterations to create the museum would start but confirmed the cafe would continue to operate.
‘‘We will look to work on that pretty urgently.’’
The museum would be great for Te Anau, he said.
‘‘It will be an opportunity to tell the history of Fiordland.’’
Previous owner Mark Deaker said the sale was a ‘‘great outcome for the business and the area’’ as Te Anau did not have many all-season, all-weather activities.
‘‘People do not have alot to do here when the weather is cold.’’
The centre would be a ‘‘bus stop’’ for tourists with the addition of a museum, he said.
‘‘It will be exciting to watch [the development].’’
Switzer’s Museum, Waikaia
The roof is about to go on the new Switzer’s Museum in Waikaia — a project 30 years in the making.
Museum committee chairwoman Mairi Dickson said she was ‘‘very excited’’ the museum was making progress.
She expected the $1 million rebuild, which started in February, would be completed by Christmas and the museum would be ready next year.
Mrs Dickson praised Venture Southland and the local community for their commitment to the project.
‘‘They have all been behind us all the way. Venture Southland has been an integral part.’’
The museum committee had done the work to secure building consent and raised $160,000, with donations and grants covering the rest.
‘‘We have finally got all our ducks in a row,’’ she said.
The project has been funded by the New Zealand Lotteries Commission, Southland District Council, community groups in Waikaia, and the Community Trust of Southland.
The nucleus of the museum was collated for the Waikaia township’s 125th celebrations in 1988. The collection has now grown to about 2200 items relating to the area’s high country farming and gold mining past. The eyecatching ‘‘Big Bottle’’ —a house constructed from about 20,000 wine bottles — which was attached to the old museum, remains intact and will be connected to the new museum.
Rakiura Heritage Centre,
Stewart Island
On Stewart Island, heritage centre plans were also progressing, Rakiura Heritage Centre Trust chairwoman Margaret Hopkins said.
The trust had secured just over $1 million of the estimated $3 million cost and needed about another $1.9 million before building could begin, she said.
A new heritage centre was a ‘‘much needed asset for the island’’, she said.
‘‘Heritage tourism is a huge thing.’’
Established and run by volunteers, the present museum has a collection of items and photographs of Stewart Island’s early history, including Maori settlement, muttonbirding, whaling, timber milling, schools and churches, as well as displays of local shells and crustacea.
Mrs Hopkins said the heritage centre would be the ‘‘biggest public building to be developed on the island since the community centre’’ and hoped locals would get behind the project.
The heritage centre will replace the current museum, which will be sold to raise money for the new centre.
The trust was about a year away from construction starting, she said, with building expected to take about a year.

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