Opening of the Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures, Porirua

  • Wyatt Creech

Thank you for inviting me here today to open the Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures. This looks to me to be a unique complex, bringing together a variety of facilities under one roof. That's good. It makes sense to bring facilities together for greater strength. I'm sure it will really benefit and strengthen the community here; this pataka - storehouse - of the treasures of this area.

Your new complex has a very interesting mix of facilities - Art Gallery, Library, Performing Arts Centre and Museum, all here in one spot. It will become an top rate focal point for the greater Porirua community.

I have been sent material on the background to this development. It is quite a history; quite hard to follow in fact. Lots of nooks and crannies.

I am told that the original building started its life in 1978 when it was constructed for "Medical Supplies Ltd" which was taken over shortly after. The building came on the market and the Porirua City Council quickly realised the importance of the site. Even back then when the surrounding area was fields it was recognised that this would one day be the commercial "Heart of the City". The council then purchased the which was then used in succession by the Porirua Business Society, the Wellington Region Noxious Plants Authority and the Work Skills development programme and PEP schemes. It then became the Court House from 1984 to 1990 when it was used for the 1990 Sesquicentenial celebrations as a community art gallery. This became known as The Porirua Art Gallery Events 90 or PAGE 90 for short. (PAGE - That's one of those times an acronym actually reads well)

After the PAGE 90 closed in 1991 the Porirua Library then moved into the building. In 1992 the Mana Community Arts council who initiated the original PAGE 90 asked the council to re-establish this as a permanent gallery. It was a community managed art gallery until 1995 when it finally became a council owned facility. In the period when it was managed by the Mana Community Arts Council, the Whitireia Polytech arranged to site its performing arts school at the Gallery. This became a successful arrangement and still exists today in the new facility. The Whitireia Performing Arts School has turned out some very successful dancers.

So after this very wide range of phases, the current council agreed in 1997 to refurbish and extend the existing building to encompass the Museum of Arts and Cultures, the performing arts studio, the Art Gallery and the Library. The design was agreed to and the tender was let in December 1997 and work started in earnest in January of this year.

The completion of the Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures is indeed an exciting achievement for Porirua. I was very interested to hear that the funding for the Museum has been by community fund raising by the Porirua Community Appeal Trust, which raised over $2 million, as well as money from the sale of the council's Energy Direct shares. It is commendable that the complex will therefore be debt free and at no charge to the rate payer or taxpayer (something every politician loves to hear!). I congratulate all involved in developing this new facility. You have made a real asset for the people of this area both now and for the future. I sense that in New Zealand there is now a growing realisation that we need to do more to remind ourselves of our unique history. Only last Saturday in my electorate the Governor General unveiled a new statute of Governor Grey. There will be different opinions about the Statute itself, but the widespread controversy leading up to the unveiling that made itself felt in the media throughout New Zealand told many New Zealanders something about Grey that probably surprised them; even now, 100 years on, to a fair chunk of our people he is a controversial character.

The Governor-General in his speech turned to the Shakespeare play, Julius Caesar to draw an analogy as to how he might explain the controversy and where it all fitted into the bigger scheme of things. He quoted from the speech by Mark Anthony after the assassination of Caesar. It is familiar to us because of the amount of times it is used. "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me my ears. I have come to bury Caesar not to honour him." The speech is one of the cleverest speeches written in the English language. It turned a crowd who was hostile to Caesar completely onto Caesar's side.

Sir Michael's point was that we have to be careful to judge our history in the context and standards of the time. Opinions about people and event vary greatly and over time what is seen as acceptable at one point in time no longer is. And history is not alone in being a subject where opinions move over time.

Art too changes. The history of art is a history of very different movements. New Zealand artists too are making their mark. This Gallery can make a contribution in bringing the ideas behind art to the community. The Performing Arts Centre is another strand of artistic expression you will see given effect to in this complex. As with history I sense New Zealanders are becoming more interested in performing arts in all its manifestations. One of the great parts about being Minister of Education is that I get to visit hundreds upon hundreds of schools and at so many of them I see young people perform so well. They need to keep it up. Again tastes change over time. When I went to school - in the early to mid 60's to be accurate (don't let this appearance fool you!) I can remember well our music teacher going ballistic about students listening to outrageous performers like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. "They weren't music at all". They were wild, longhaired radicals who wouldn't have known a musical note if it had hit them over the head with a ten pound hammer. Music was the classics and only the classics. Beethoven, Mozart, etc etc.

Yet when I visited a school recently I was played three songs by the assembled pupils. The first was "Here comes the sun". That is a Beatles song. Then it was "Blowing in the wind". That's Bob Dylan. And they capped it off with "Ruby Tuesday". Now "Ruby Tuesday" is the product of those wildest of the wildest from back then the Rolling Stones. Given where I come from musically I complimented the school on their fine musical taste. My music teacher now passed on would have turned over in his grave. Finally you have here a library. A Library - a pataka or storehouse of books - is something we should all cherish. As Minister of Education I constantly stress the importance of reading and writing. In the next century it will be impossible for anyone to reach their potential in life without the skills, motivations, values and knowledge that is learned in schools. We want to do more to make sure each and every young New Zealanders, including in areas like this, gets those skills, motivations, values and knowledge.

Most of the Government's education goals are actually addressed in different ways by such facilities as this Museum and I commend all those who have been involved with its establishment and refurbishment. We want to see communities strengthened and in many ways this complex will also help towards those goals. Finally I would like to congratulate everybody who has been involved in the development and completion of this marvellous facility.

I now declare the Porirua Museum of Arts and Cultures open.