2 Nov 2018

NZ war memorial museum on Western Front project to be unveiled

6:31 pm on 2 November 2018

The unveiling of a project to open a memorial museum in Europe to honour New Zealanders who died in both world wars will take place on Sunday in Northern France.

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France has contributed to the project by selling the property to the trust for 600,000 euros, which is half its current value. Photo: Supplied

It is planned to open the museum in Le Quesnoy within the next five years.

The New Zealand Memorial Museum Trust has purchased the former mayor's residence in the historic town for the museum.

The project has been seven years in the planning.

A trustee, Sir Lockwood Smith, said the museum and visitors centre would be a place New Zealanders, especially young New Zealanders could go to remember and honour the sacrifices made in war.

He said people would be able to go there and feel at home in a New Zealand place and find out more about what their forebears did in both world wars.

Sir Lockwood said the trust needed to raise $15 million for the project.

It has already received $1.5 million from New Zealand organisations and individuals.

"We want this to be special, we don't want to rush it and we don't want to end up with something people feel disappointed with," Sir Lockwood said.

"We want young New Zealanders to go there as part of their OE [overseas experience] and we want them to feel 'wow, this is special'."

New Zealand is the only allied nation not to have a permanent memorial museum on the Western Front.

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A concept drawing of the museum at Le Quesnoy. Photo: Supplied

Last year, Australia opened the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux at a reported cost of $A100m.

The trust's chair, Sir Don McKinnon, said the museum would be a vital landmark in this country's history.

"It's time to acknowledge and commemorate New Zealand's achievements on the Western Front with a museum.

"It will be a permanent reminder of the men and women that paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedoms we hold so precious today," he said.

Former prime minister Helen Clark is patron on the trust.

"We want to make sure those stories of young New Zealanders who travelled to the other side of the world a century ago are passed on to future generations," she said.

Sir Don McKinnon said the support of all New Zealanders, including descendants of those who fought during both world wars, would be vital in the museum's success.

France has contributed to the project by selling the property to be used for the museum to the trust for 600,000 euros, about $1m, which is half its current value.

The New Zealand government has granted overseas donor status to the museum trust.

This will allow donors to receive a tax rebate.