Founders Heritage Park reopened on Wednesday 21 July following the successful completion of an investigation of potentially hazardous materials by the New Zealand Defence Force’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit.

Group Manager Community Services Andrew White thanked the NZDF and the NZ Police for their work at the park, and in ensuring the ongoing safety of its staff and visitors.

“We are grateful that we were able to review our collection and have the assistance of the EOD team so promptly, meaning Founders only had to be closed for a day.”

Council, along with many other organisations around the country, had recently carried out a review of the collection at Founders Heritage Park following the discovery of picric acid in a Southland museum.

An examination of the Park's inventory found a number of items suspected of containing potentially hazardous substances including picric acid.

Picric acid was widely used in early forms of medicine and medical supplies, including on gauze pads and as an antiseptic, but can be volatile and explosive under certain circumstances.

As a precaution, Council closed two of the Park's collection storage areas, and the public apothecary and hospital displays and contacted the New Zealand Police on Monday 19 July as the first step in having the items checked.

On Tuesday, 20 July, Founders was closed to the public, and its tenants asked to evacuate for the day to allow members of the New Zealand Defence Force's EOD team to assess the items. 

Neighbouring Whakatū Marae was asked to evacuate one building, closest to the Park.

A New Zealand Defence Force spokesperson said a number of items were removed from the park and disposed of safely.

“The items recovered were a mix of small glass vials, small tins and medical lint bandages. All had markings indicating picric acid content.”

The items were found during inventory checks of old presentations/displays.

The spokesperson said there had been five EOD callouts to safely dispose of picric acid in 2021.

“A number of museums are now reviewing their holdings to ensure the safety of their staff and the public. It is possible that historical holdings will continue to be identified as this process occurs.

“Items containing picric acid can pose a risk to the NZ public. If anyone has any concern about items they have discovered, call the NZ Police as soon as possible and ensure to keep away from the items.”