22 Jul 2015

Dunne defends $3m Treaty display project spend

7:48 am on 22 July 2015

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne has defended the $3 million spent discussing where the original Treaty of Waitangi documents should be displayed.

The Government announced four years ago it was moving the country's founding document from its current home in the National Archive to a new space in the National Library just 200 metres up the road.

United Future Leader, Peter Dunne.

Peter Dunne Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The move was due to have been completed last year, but is still in the conceptual design phase.

Opposition MPs are unimpressed.

The Government's plan is for a new, bigger exhibition space at the National Library, catering for more visitors.

It also includes moving the 1835 Declaration of Independence and the 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition.

Mr Dunne said the documents were worth preserving, and getting the exhibition right was not a waste of taxpayer money.

"It's not just some documents. It's the Treaty of Waitangi. It's the 1835 declaration. It's some documents that are critical to the history of New Zealand."

"If you look at how the Magna Carta is stored in Britain, the declaration of Independence of the United States. This is in that realm and deserves to be treated seriously," he said.

But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was outrageous Internal Affairs had spent four years and $3 million doing effectively nothing.

"If it's to be moved, it surely would take far less time and money than that," he said.

Mr Peters said Internal Affairs should have consulted other countries that have moved important documents like the Treaty ones.

"Why not ring them up, or email them, or find out what they did and borrow the technology that they used, and do it for about a tenth of the price."

Department of Internal Affairs Deputy Chief Executive of Information Knowledge Services Peter Murray said the delay was due to the project going beyond its scope.

"The project thought it could be enhanced by having a wider range of documents included."

He said they realised last year they were not going to meet the deadline, or the $6 million budget, and that they'd have to write off at least $2 million of the money that had been spent.

"From an accounting sense, but we have got value out of that. We know what we don't want to do again."

Mr Murray said the project had been refocused and construction of the exhibition will be going out for pricing in the very near future.

Epsom electorate MP David Seymour

Epsom electorate MP David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

ACT leader David Seymour spoke out about their efforts.

"You know, I don't know about competent they've been. It sounds like they could have been more efficient."

Mr Dunne said the documents would be stored in a way that would make them accessible to New Zealanders for the next 200 or 300 years.

The exhibition in the National Library is now expected to open in 2017.