As an Auckland Green member of Parliament I would like to congratulate the museum director, Rodney Wilson, and his team for the wonderful new expansion project that this bill will allow. As the Minister has just said, there is Government provision for $26.5 million towards the project costs of about $49 million, and there is still a bit of fund-raising to be done. I think that we Parliamentarians should support that fundraising to complete this project fully. But the money is there now to begin the construction for this essential development that will expand the exhibition space by 60 percent and allow the proper display of what is the premier museum collection in New Zealand.
The museum has gone forward in leaps and bounds under its present leadership. I went there recently to two excellent exhibitions – one on Islamic art and one on the series of Magnum photographs. That exhibition was packed, as the museum often is. There are a huge number of Aucklanders, and people from around the country and from around the world, who go to that museum. This new space will enable the collection to be displayed properly.
About 3 years ago, along with the Minister, I saw a presentation by Rodney Wilson on the project, and thought that it looked impressive. As my colleague, Mike Ward, has just said – and Jim Peters referred to it too – the museum also has an important teaching mission, with 65,000 curricular students a year going through it. It has been so cramped it has not even had classrooms, and this new project will enable it to have two classrooms and to do its teaching in a proper way. That teaching figure does not even include the non-curricular students.
The museum has a very interactive approach, as my colleague just mentioned. Already the “Weird and Wonderful” exhibition for kids is very interactive. I have taken many kids along there and they really enjoy it. Building on that participatory, interactive model is very important.
ThirdIy, the museum is not only for the public and for teaching. It is a very important research facility, and is really part of our tertiary sector in that regard. The researchers at the museum exchange with tertiary institutes and some of its people go and teach in tertiary institutions. Its library matches the Hocken and Turnbull libraries as one of our major research libraries. The Green Party fully supports this development.
Mike has discussed some of the questions of parking, but I hope this underground park will enable the museum and the Domain’s management, Auckland city, to tidy up the parking on the Domain as a whole. It is rather dangerous at the present time on the northern and eastern sides of the museum, with cars everywhere, and it would be a step forward if that could be rationalised into an underground car park.
Of course, as Mike Ward has said, we want to see an improvement in public transport in Auckland that will help people get to the museum. Already, as the Minister said, there is public transport. The Link bus goes past it at two points – at the hospital and in Parnell Road – and a very good development is taking place with a local Parnell resident, Richard Simpson, leading the way in trying to establish a footbridge from Birdwood Crescent into the Domain, close to the museum. That is important, not just for pedestrian access. There is a proposal associated with that, to have a museum railway station there so that people can go by train, get off, go across that footbridge, and get up to the museum. There are other proposals associated with the big regional rail development plan for Auckland – to have either an underground or a rapid rail service up through Auckland city with a stop at the hospital, close by the museum. Hopefully, with that big rail development, we can get people into the centre of the city from the outskirts of Auckland quickly, so that they can travel to the museum by public transport, and by rail in particular.
The Auckland museum is a jewel in Auckland’s crown. As Jim Peters said, it is wonderfully located in the midst of a Domain that is very much used by Aucklanders.