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Christchurch Air Force museum's makeover underway

Air Force MuseumA $14 million expansion to Christchurch's Air Force Museum is underway after nine years of planning and delays caused by the Canterbury earthquakes.

Full architectural plans were completed in 2009 with a planned start date in 2010, although the September 4 earthquake delayed progress considerably.

However, museum director Thérèse Angelo said this had allowed the board time to find more funds from a number of donors, sponsors and charitable trusts.

Since February 22 museum staff have also aided in the recovery and storage of historical material from 13 different museums, galleries, and archives and it is hoped the new building will be able to be used to conserve those heritage collections.

Angelo said the board was willing to delay the museum’s own use of the facilities for up to three years so the building could provide a greater good to the wider community in that case.

The museum, located on the former Royal New Zealand Air Force Base at Wigram, will remain open to the public during the development, which is anticipated to take about 12 months to complete.

Angelo said estimates suggest the project will generate $15 million of economic benefit to Christchurch over that time, adding to the $6 million of gross benefit it provides each year as one of the city’s key attractions.

An $11 million, 4,200sqm aircraft display gallery is the first stage of the wider project which will eventually include an adjoining purpose built aircraft and large object restoration facility. 

 The extension will enable the museum to better preserve and display aircraft and large artefacts currently in storage, and provide space for aircraft expected to be added to the collection over the next few years.

The finished building will cover some 6,500sqm and incorporate solar hot water heating and rainwater harvesting systems.

It has been designed by Warren & Mahoney in association with Alan Reay Consultants, Beca, and Rawlinsons.