An observatory to remain on Kaiti Hill

Council says other things will not replace it.

Council says other things will not replace it.

SAVE IT OR REPLACE IT? The James Cook Observatory on top of Kaiti Hill. It has structural problems but the community supports having an astronomical observatory there .File picture

THERE will be an astronomical observatory on Kaiti Hill after major developments planned by the District Council in association with co-management partner Ngati Oneone are completed, says the council’s liveable communities director Andrew White.

He was commenting on decisions made by the Future Tairawhiti Committee to investigate possible developments such as a star compass and star park for the hill.

The brief staff had been given included the possibility of retaining the existing observatory that has been on the hill for nearly 50 years, or building a new structure around it. But there were difficulties with that, he said.

The possibility of the existing observatory being demolished had created concerns but Mr White said the committee had now given staff a very high-level broad concept.

“It was about what they thought were good solutions but there is a lot of work to do to turn that into something we can cost out and design properly.”

In this year’s annual plan consultations the council included a question on whether the public wanted the observatory to stay. Most responded positively.

“We did not ask them whether they wanted an existing building or a new one to be built, but it came through very strongly and I recognised it in my report that the community is really supportive of having an observatory there.

“But the observatory has structural problems, as was found out when geotechnical work was done. Part of it has been built on unengineered fill and is moving. The sustainability of the building is questionable.”

Geotechnical assessment

In the past couple of months LDE (Land Development and Exploration) did a geotechnical assessment and said there was evidence of movement.

The cost of strengthening the building would likely be more than the ballpark figure of $141,000 provided by structural engineers earlier.

Chris Hay, of Locales, the company that prepared the concepts for the committee, pointed out that the design of the current building was pokey and would not suit the internal observatory gathering and educational spaces they proposed in their concepts.

The prospect of building something based on the present building were limited. They could spend a lot of money strengthening it and at the end of the day, was it really worth it?

One illustration presented to the community was of an observatory building with the star compass on top, taken from work done by Gisborne firm Kingsbeer Architecture in 2015.

That had been well received when it was reported to the council then.

Ngati Oneone and Gisborne Astronomical Society were involved in the development of that concept.

But what the council and Ngati Oneone were saying this time was that they would like to see an observatory building that was not so “blocky” and sat better with the maunga environment.

“We are working on the basis that there is an observatory there. We are not replacing it with the star compass and other things.”

The next stage was to develop the project based on the concepts presented by Locales in conjunction with Ngati Oneone and other stakeholders, including Gisborne Astronomical Society.

Ideally, they would like the new concept to be in place by 2019. The councillors had been clear that the majority of the funding for this needed to come from an external party.

Like the library and War Memorial Theatre, this was something that added a lot of value to the community.

Mr White said Gisborne Astronomical Society had been involved in the Locales concept but had not had final sign-off on it.

THERE will be an astronomical observatory on Kaiti Hill after major developments planned by the District Council in association with co-management partner Ngati Oneone are completed, says the council’s liveable communities director Andrew White.

He was commenting on decisions made by the Future Tairawhiti Committee to investigate possible developments such as a star compass and star park for the hill.

The brief staff had been given included the possibility of retaining the existing observatory that has been on the hill for nearly 50 years, or building a new structure around it. But there were difficulties with that, he said.

The possibility of the existing observatory being demolished had created concerns but Mr White said the committee had now given staff a very high-level broad concept.

“It was about what they thought were good solutions but there is a lot of work to do to turn that into something we can cost out and design properly.”

In this year’s annual plan consultations the council included a question on whether the public wanted the observatory to stay. Most responded positively.

“We did not ask them whether they wanted an existing building or a new one to be built, but it came through very strongly and I recognised it in my report that the community is really supportive of having an observatory there.

“But the observatory has structural problems, as was found out when geotechnical work was done. Part of it has been built on unengineered fill and is moving. The sustainability of the building is questionable.”

Geotechnical assessment

In the past couple of months LDE (Land Development and Exploration) did a geotechnical assessment and said there was evidence of movement.

The cost of strengthening the building would likely be more than the ballpark figure of $141,000 provided by structural engineers earlier.

Chris Hay, of Locales, the company that prepared the concepts for the committee, pointed out that the design of the current building was pokey and would not suit the internal observatory gathering and educational spaces they proposed in their concepts.

The prospect of building something based on the present building were limited. They could spend a lot of money strengthening it and at the end of the day, was it really worth it?

One illustration presented to the community was of an observatory building with the star compass on top, taken from work done by Gisborne firm Kingsbeer Architecture in 2015.

That had been well received when it was reported to the council then.

Ngati Oneone and Gisborne Astronomical Society were involved in the development of that concept.

But what the council and Ngati Oneone were saying this time was that they would like to see an observatory building that was not so “blocky” and sat better with the maunga environment.

“We are working on the basis that there is an observatory there. We are not replacing it with the star compass and other things.”

The next stage was to develop the project based on the concepts presented by Locales in conjunction with Ngati Oneone and other stakeholders, including Gisborne Astronomical Society.

Ideally, they would like the new concept to be in place by 2019. The councillors had been clear that the majority of the funding for this needed to come from an external party.

Like the library and War Memorial Theatre, this was something that added a lot of value to the community.

Mr White said Gisborne Astronomical Society had been involved in the Locales concept but had not had final sign-off on it.

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