Stage one of the Maruawai project, a complete redevelopment of the arts and heritage precinct, is to begin in the new year.
The project is the culmination of about 35 years’ planning.
Gore District Council arts and heritage curator Jim Geddes said the remodelling of existing buildings into a multi-faceted arts, heritage and enterprise-based precinct would be done in stages and depended on the successful sourcing of funding,
Maruawai is the Maori name for the Gore district and means “valley of water”.
The redevelopment would include completely remodelling the buildings now occupied by the Salvation Army Family Store, the Gore Visitor Centre and Hokonui Moonshine Museum, and the Eastern Southland Gallery.
Signal Project Management is to project-manage the redevelopment.
The council bought the Salvation Army store building in 2008 with funding from the Community Trust of Southland, Mataura Licensing Trust and district council.
The cost and scope of stage one depended on the success of the council’s application to the Government’s multibillion-dollar provincial growth fund.
If the application was successful, the cost would be about $1.4million.
The initiative would include upgrading the moonshine museum, the addition of a small brewery and whisky distillery, earthquake-strengthening the Eastern Southland Gallery, and remodelling the Salvation Army store into the “Maruawai Centre”, which would house the visitor centre and extended merchandising hub.
The project would feature digital imagery bringing the stories of the area to life, Mr Geddes said.
It would also include extending the Win Hamilton Wing and creating more retail space.
Alongside the precinct project would be the completion of the East Gore Arts Centre.
“A lot of it is funding-dependent.”
If the council was not successful in its application to the provincial growth fund there were two other possible scenarios: a scaled-down stage one costing about $1million or a further scaled-down version costing about $750,000.
“We’re aiming for a state of-the-art $1.4million stage one project,” Mr Geddes said.
It was envisaged the whisky distillery would be a major visitor attraction and the whisky it produced would also bring in revenue.
At present whisky was being produced off-site and the visitor centre could not keep up with demand, he said.
The whole precinct project was listed in the 2007 long-term plan with an estimated cost of $2.5million and present estimates showed the cost would be no more than that.
Stage two involved a total refit of the building now occupied by the Salvation Army store.
Stage three involved landscaping, building infrastructure and the installation of public art and it was hoped a themed children’s playground could also be included.
The project would also draw on the skills of several artists, Mr Geddes said.
Dunedin artist Janet de Wagt, a frequent exhibitor in the town, said that it was always good when a project took time to develop.
“I think the development is quite organic – it’s happening very slowly. I think it’s good.”
The slow pace of the project allowed time to think and develop in a considered way, she said.
The Gore district was already renowned for its arts and heritage collections, she said.
The project would enhance what was already a thriving arts and heritage precinct.
Tourist buses and independent travellers already stopped at the destination.
The project was “bringing it together”.
The proposed Gore arts and heritage precinct project is named in honour of southern Maori.
Maruawai is the Maori name for the Gore district and means “valley of water”, reflecting the fact the area was a food basket for southern Maori.
The Mataura Valley was a complex matrix of food-gathering sites containing a range of indigenous flora and fauna precious to Waitaha, Kati Mamoe and Ngai Tahu people, a synopsis of the Maruawai project says.
“With the arrival of European settlers the valley’s pastoral potential was progressively realised and the area continued its role as a food basket – albeit with the aid of introduced crops and animals.”
The history of the Maruawai area was full of stories of opportunity, hardship, perseverance, ingenuity and eccentricity, the synopsis said.
The district’s arts and heritage facilities already harboured such stories, along with a wealth of cultural material to help interpret and enliven those narratives, and the initiative would build on that.
“The Maruawai project is on one level a significant heritage project, but it is also a significant art project.”