24 Sep 2019

Sudden ditching of Te Papa North plan stuns Auckland

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 24 September 2019
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Wellington

Hopes for a Te Papa North have been dashed Photo: CC4.0

For the last six years Auckland Council and its economic development arm ATEED, Te Papa, mana whenua, Auckland Museum, and the city’s art gallery have been working on a grand plan to showcase Māori and Pasifika taonga in south Auckland.

The cultural collection would be accessible to the population it means most to; it would get some of those treasures out of the Wellington basement and into the light; and it would provide a tourist drawcard in a neglected part of the super city. 

With just one letter from associate arts minister Grant Robertson those hopes have been dashed.

The decision has left all concerned reeling.

And Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina says he's still in the dark over the reasons to axe the Te Papa Manukau (Te Papa North) project.

Since 2013, Filipaina has been part of the leadership group involved in bringing the $1.5 million project to build a storage facility and showcase an exhibition to fruition.

Earlier this year, he says he received a letter from Te Papa chief executive Geraint Martin saying the project would not be going ahead.

Filipaina is still perplexed as to why. "Dunno!" he shrugs.

Te Papa was also backing the project, wanting to expand its relevance as a national museum.

Filipaina says an exhibition in south Auckland would have aligned well with the new government initiative to teach New Zealand history in schools.

Sitting on a bench outside the Manukau Institute of Technology, Filipaina points at the area of Hayman Park set out for the project.

"It's right in the middle of the most vibrant area in Tāmaki Makaurau.

"There's a train underneath us, we've got MIT campus here, we have Hayman Park; with trees and several ponds.

"Then opposite is the Manukau hub; our bus interchange, then you've got Westfield shopping Centre."

Laughing, he points, "this is no indication at all about our community, but we [also] have the police and the district court.

"This is just a prime area. It's a shame that government and Te Papa have got to the point of saying no."

Maori and Pasifika attendance at Te Papa is low; despite making up 24 percent of New Zealand’s total population, they represent only 11 percent of domestic visitors to the Wellington museum.

Filipaina says the leadership group was excited to give the community access to Maori and Pasifika taonga as well as taonga from other cultures.

He says children now learning New Zealand's history could have seen artefacts relating to what is taught in the classroom.

"Here is a chance for our young people to say they remember being taught that."

Filipaina pointing to the space at Hayman Park allocated for Te Papa Manukau

Alf Filipaina points towards the space at Hayman Park allocated for Te Papa Manukau. Photo: Kethaki Masilamani

Filipaina doesn't know if money was the issue that halted the project, but there had been an understanding of how the funding structure would work.

"[The council] contribution was the land, through the local board, we then had an understanding that the government would come on board.

"Te Papa would look at fundraising through philanthropic organisations, and we looked at corporate companies coming on board.

 "We thought we were heading in the right direction.”

Filipaina says he wants to talk to Te Papa's Geraint Martin.

"Kanohi Ki te kanohi - face to face, get the leadership group together and let us know what happened."

But as far as he knows, the plan is dead in the water.

Photo: RNZ