Russell was once dubbed the "hellhole of the Pacific", then named Kororāreka, and the site of the flagpole famously cut down four times by Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke, sparking the Northern War of the mid-1840s. Now plans are afoot for Russell in the Bay of Islands' to have the museum it deserves, replacing the modest 1950s building that currently houses it.
Last weekend the Russell community came together for a successful fund-raising art auction to support their planned new museum. Thirteen original works by renowned Whanganui-based artist Peter Ireland all sold under the gavel of Far North mayor John Carter, boosting the museum redevelopment fund and all have gone to homes in the region . Peter Ireland writes:
“Te Tai Tokerau, Northland, is the bicultural nursery of Aotearoa New Zealand, from which we have evolved into a multicultural landscape. Russell, or Kororāreka, is threaded with the strands of those stories of encounter, and these are the close-up textures of our heritage. This new museum will share stories of who we are, not just who we were. It is a local treasure house, but of national importance.
The multi-million dollar development, designed by the Isthmus group, will be built on the existing museum site, but will be turned 180 degrees to face the sea, where many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s founding stories played out. In the next stage, the finer design details of the complex will be finalised, incorporating both Māori and Pākehā themes woven together. The museum are due to go for resource consent shortly.