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Farewell to Southland Museum and Art Gallery – Invercargill City Council

The long-standing Southland Museum and Art Gallery was farewelled in a moving poroporoaki ceremony this week, as preparations for its demolition begin.

Invercargill City Council is rebuilding the museum, which is set to open in late 2026 as Te Unua Museum of Southland.

With the museum collection move complete and diggers set to roll in for demolition to commence in mid-April, mana whenua, past and present museum staff and trust members, and the project team took the opportunity to attend the farewell on Monday evening, switching the lights off on the way out.

Te Rūnaka o Awarua kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga and Invercargill City Council mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook, of Waihōpai Rūnaka, led a walk-through of the ground floor of the building and a whakawātea to clear the way for demolition.

The ceremony ended with attendees reflecting and sharing memories of the museum. Whaanga said it was a time for reflection and to farewell the whare.

“There’s a lot of memories in this place and a lot of energy. Energy still reverberates through here, but this house has done its mahi.”

Southland Regional Collection Manager Wayne Marriott said he was thinking of all of the people who had been through the doors and all the things that had happened over the building’s many years.

“There was a heck of a lot of fun in this place, it buzzed. We’re going to say goodbye to a building, a building that has stood the test of time and now is our opportunity to say haere rā.”

Invercargill City Council Chief Executive Michael Day said he had memories of visiting the museum as a child.

“For me, this place has great memories. This has memories for Southland and I hope we all treasure those memories and take those with us. Those memories will continue and it’s not a building that continues with those memories, it’s us as people.”

Te Unua Museum of Southland Director Eloise Wallace said she first visited the old museum in the 90s as a teenager, long before starting her journey into museums.

“I remember it was humming and there was something new around every corner.

“Coming back here many years later to Southland charged with developing and operating Te Unua is really exciting.

“I want to acknowledge the building and what it has given to Southland, and the people who have been associated with this place for so many years and all of their mahi to make this place magic.

“Those memories will remain on this site and weave their way into the new building that rises.”

The end of the collection move and start of demolition marked a significant milestone for the project, Wallace said.

“We are now looking ahead to Te Unua Museum of Southland, which when completed in 2026, will offer an incredible modern museum facility, embodying state-of-the-art design and innovative experiences,” she said.

Acknowledging the community’s bond with the old museum, Wallace said, “We understand it may be confronting for many locals to see the pyramid come down.

“It has been an icon and a fixture in the lives of Southlanders for many years. However, this is an important milestone in our move towards a new space. So, in many ways, this is an exciting step.


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