House will hon­our New Zealand’s fallen

Weekend Herald - - Bring On The Weekend - Anne Gib­son

A New Zealand trust has bought an his­toric prop­erty in north­ern France to es­tab­lish our first per­ma­nent Euro­pean war memo­rial mu­seum.

On this Ar­mistice Day to­day, Sir Don McKin­non, pa­tron of New Zealand War Memo­rial Mu­seum Trust Part­ners, an­nounced the res­i­den­tial prop­erty in Le Ques­noy had been bought for 600,000 eu­ros ($1,004,800) plus taxes and le­gal fees.

On Oc­to­ber 11, the trust bought:

● The or­nate four-level 19th cen­tury home, once the town’s may­oral res­i­dence, used by a branch of the gen­darmerie or armed forces from 1952;

● Eight sur­round­ing more mod­ern ter­raced maisonettes or houses, built around 1952, on a 10,000sq m or 1ha site;

● One stand-alone cot­tage;

● A garage.

As well as the 600,000 eu­ros, the trust paid an 8000 euro ($14,000) fee “be­cause the town had to pur­chase the prop­erty off the state to sell it to us”, McKin­non said.

The prop­erty is val­ued at well over $2m but the French Gov­ern­ment made a “do­na­tion” by sell­ing it at the knock-down price of just over $1m.

“The pur­chase marks a sig­nif­i­cant and, quite frankly, long over­due step in the cre­ation of a per­ma­nent New Zealand war mu­seum in Europe,” McKin­non said.

“Af­ter all, Aus­tralia, South Africa, Canada and In­dia have long since cre­ated per­ma­nent mu­se­ums to hon­our their war dead on the Western Front. Our mu­seum will hon­our and pre­serve New Zealan­ders’ re­mark­able brav­ery and sac­ri­fice in both world wars and will be a place to go to re­mem­ber, learn, and re­flect.”

Our mu­seum will hon­our and pre­serve New Zealan­ders’ re­mark­able brav­ery and sac­ri­fice in both world wars and will be a place to go to re­mem­ber, learn, and re­flect.

Don McKin­non

The prop­erty is in the town near the Bel­gium bor­der, which New Zealand sol­diers freed from Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion in Novem­ber, 1918. Le Ques­noy is just over two hours’ drive from Paris and an hour from Pass­chen­daele.

McKin­non said the house would now be re-pur­posed into a mu­seum to ex­hibit in­ter­ac­tive and pre­cious his­toric col­lec­tions show­cas­ing our mil­i­tary in­volve­ment. It would be es­pe­cially im­por­tant as a place for young New Zealan­ders to visit, and try to un­der­stand the sac­ri­fice of peo­ple their own ages, he said.

Just a week be­fore the end of World War I, in Novem­ber 1918, the New Zealand Di­vi­sion cap­tured the town in the New Zealan­ders’ last ma­jor ac­tion of that war. To this day, the town marks the im­por­tant role that New Zealand played in its his­tory. Streets are named af­ter New Zealand towns, there is a New Zealand memo­rial and a pri­mary school bears the name of a New Zealand sol­dier.

McKin­non said the French al­lowed for­eign­ers such as the trust to buy prop­erty there, in con­trast to the new Gov­ern­ment’s plans to ban for­eign­ers from buy­ing sen­si­tive, farm or res­i­den­tial prop­erty here.

“There’s a dif­fer­ent cap­i­tal gains tax for non-res­i­dents, which won’t af­fect us, but oth­er­wise our right to pur­chase is no dif­fer­ent from that of lo­cals. There were some ad­di­tional steps to dis­cuss how best to legally rep­re­sent a NZ non-profit trust in France but that was easy to ad­dress,” he said.

Phase one will turn the down­stairs of the res­i­dence into a mu­seum, and re­fur­bish four of the eight maisonettes for self­ca­ter­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion. To do that, the trust needs to raise money over the next year, ready for the cen­te­nary next Novem­ber.

“Now that the pur­chase is com­plete, we’re look­ing at sub­mit­ting draw­ings for ap­proval for the up­com­ing ren­o­va­tions and con­ver­sion,” McKin­non said.

Herb Far­rant, trust founder and gen­eral sec­re­tary, asked for sup­port for the project at the New Zealand Prop­erty Coun­cil con­fer­ence held in Mel­bourne in Septem­ber.

Tun­nels be­neath the man­sion were cre­ated 300 years ago and these would be used in dis­plays, Far­rant said.

The two blocks of maisonettes in a semi­cir­cle near the mayor’s house would be used for ac­com­mo­da­tion, Far­rant said. These did not com­ply with Euro­pean in­su­la­tion stan­dards, but about 90 peo­ple could be ac­com­mo­dated, he said.

The mayor's for­mer house in Le Ques­noy, bought by the New Zealand War Memo­rial Mu­seum Trust Part­ners.

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