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Quake-hit Rotorua Museum to stay closed

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4 days ago
Rotorua Museum © Getty Rotorua Museum

The earthquake-damaged Rotorua Museum will remain closed until at least April next year.

The category 1-listed historic place suffered damage in the 7.8-magnitude quake on November 14 and was closed as a precaution after engineers found cracks.

Engineers have said the museum, housed in the Tudor-style Bath House in Government Gardens, needs to remain closed until the full picture of the damage emerges.

Around 20 staff will lose their jobs and will be offered redundancy or the option of other roles with the Rotorua Lakes Council or local tourism operators.

A report from the engineers is expected in April but museum director Stewart Brown said the building which draws thousands of visitors a year would close indefinitely.

"At that time we will be able to consider the longer term future of the museum and any work that's needed," said Mr Brown.

"We do not know what the result of that assessment might be or what might follow that. It's a complex building and due to its Heritage 1 status, we also need to protect the integrity of its heritage features."

The damage is restricted to the older, middle parts of the 108-year-old building, not the newer wings added in recent years.

Mr Brown said there had always been cracks in the original part of the building and a few had appeared to have widened.

The damage includes cracking and movement in walls, ceilings, floor slabs, beams and columns.

The council carried out earthquake risk assessments of its buildings in 2011 in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. Several council buildings were identified as being at risk, including the older, central part of the museum.

Engineers had been scheduled to undertake a detailed seismic assessment of the building last month.

The 20 staff which will lose their jobs come principally from the front of house and cafe areas and will be paid until January.

Another 20 will remain to help relocate exhibits, including 12 Summers Carrara marble sculptures which have been in the museum since it opened in August 1908.

Along with other exhibits and art works they will be relocated to the museum's southern wing, opened in 2010, which will become a storage area until the museum eventually reopens.

The bulk of the damage is confined to the museum's basement area but other, older areas of the building are being examined for seismic-relate structural damage.

Mr Brown said the closure would have a significant economic impact on the museum which chalked up a record $2.5 million turnover in the last financial year.

He confirmed the museum had business affected insurance but it was not yet clear what that would cover.

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