Future of Māori Battalion exhibit unknown as Rotorua Museum fate decided

By Waimanea Nuri

An iconic exhibition featuring soldiers of B-Company from the Māori Battalion was mothballed when Rotorua Museum was closed seven years ago because the buildings needed strengthening. Now the ratepayers are being given a say on the museum's future and its Māori collections.

In 2016 the museum was forced to close because the building was unsafe.

Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell says, "At first when we closed it, we weren't quite sure how long it would close for, after a bit of investigation, including a whole 3D scan of the building, it became quite obvious that there was going to be quite a lot of structural work to restore and improve it".

The estimated cost to rebuild the museum was originally $50 million.

"Then 80% of our people gave feedback and said that the whare taonga is important, we want to restore it but now unfortunately that the cost of it will be $30 million more, up to $80 million."

Tapsell is now asking the community for feedback: “We know the building is very valuable and precious to you, but what price are you willing to pay?"

All its taonga and artefacts are being housed in storage. but, of all the treasures, old or recent, there is one exhibition the museum is most proud of.

"So our Māori Battalion B Company exhibition is of course very special to us, not only for Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, Thames, Coromandel, Taupo, that was the rohe that our B Company, Māori Battalion soldiers came from. It was a beautiful exhibition and unfortunately, it has been closed. The future of where it should go actually lies down to the whānau of the soldiers and of course the 28th Māori Battalion Company Trust.”

Tapsell says the council has come to an agreement.

“We voted to go out to community consultation on what the future of the museum should be, so it's not done and dusted just yet. However, we are going out to the community and saying - the last time we checked in with you in 2018, 80% of our people who submitted and gave feedback said that whare taonga is important and we want to restore it".

A decision will be made next month.