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The museum to open in Katikati's old fire station will sport a new name, new vision and new trust, and will cover the history and heritage of the entire Western Bay of Plenty District.

Called The Western Bay Museum, the facility will be worlds away from what Katikati Heritage Museum offered, says manager Paula Gaelic.

Manager Paula Gaelic in front of the Western Bay Museum's site

Manager Paula Gaelic in front of the Western Bay Museum's site – Katikati's old fire station building which is being strengthened and refurbished for its new purpose. Photo by Merle Foster.

With her loyal 70-odd volunteers she's been sorting through 18,500 items at the old site at Wharawhara Rd to decide what to keep and use in the new facility on Main St.

“There is so much going on out here that nobody's knows about,” says Paula.

“We've got a new trust, there is a new museum being built and a new way of telling our stories,” says Paula.

“And it's not going to be a duplicate of the old museum – we are a new identity,” says Paula, who is being mentored by Te Papa and Auckland War Memorial museum staff.

“We are taking this museum to a high standard small museum following the code of ethics on Museums Aotearoa.”

With Western Bay of Plenty District Council including the project in its 2015-2025 Long Term Plan, the museum will receive a $60,000 annual grant for the next three years to set up base in the old fire station and enable the museum trust to apply for external funding for ongoing operation.

So what can Western BOP residents expect from the new museum? “It will be a Western Bay museum,” says Paula.

“For example, George Vesey Stewart is part of Katikati's history, but is also part of Te Puke's – and blacksmiths, cobblers, agriculture, war commemoration, these things are regional or national.”

Paula and her volunteers have so far sorted through 12,000 items while the old fire station receives earthquake-strengthening work and is being prepped for its new purpose.

Paula says the new museum's design is to be “really modern, really hands-on and it's going to be full of life – there's no question of that”.

It will include a school-room wing with a sewing station, blacksmiths' quarters, old Katikati Telephone Exchange connected to party line telephones in red phone boxes outside, a vintage kitchen with a coal range for cooking griddle scones and a dairy for butter churning.

The main entrance will boast a Maori/taonga Samuel Middlebrook section, a rocking ship's cabin authentically-sized to the Lady Jocelyn ship to tell the story of early settlers, a George Vesey Stewart section, a Killen Melodium, and a Model 3 treadle press to print.

At rear, two full-length windows will let light and views from the Kaimai Range spill into the Exhibition Gallery.

“By using smart planning and following the primary school curriculum we'll rotate the Exhibition Gallery at the end of each school term to tie into what's being learnt by students so we will be educational centre as well,” says Paula.

“We want the on-site, off-site and online audience experience to reflect a museum full of life, vibrancy, and be a must-do destination that evokes the desire to revisit.”

Paula expects to open before the end of this year once work on the fire station is complete. “But I will not open this museum until it looks ‘wow'.

“Council has taken us on-board, they've provided us with a rent-free building – we don't have rates – and only a collection insurance,” says Paula, who expects the interim facility to remain until a new library is built in Katikati.

But Paula does have to find $75,000 for the new fit-out, which she's used local businesses for, apart from specialised museum cabinetry not available in NZ. And a museum membership is being worked on for WBOPDC ratepayers.

“Meeting the challenges ahead demands a strong and realistic vision. Success will depend on the capacity of the museum to deliver on its vision, and on the courage and belief of our supporters.

“It's a very exciting time, a community venture, and I invite and encourage residents' involvement.”


Get in Touch with Us


07 549 0651

The Old Fire Station
32 Main Road