THE NEWSDESK: Time to stop the short-term thinking on Newport's medieval ship
THERE comes a point when the long-term needs to start outweighing short-term thinking driven by austerity measures.
The Newport Ship is a case in point.
The sort of short-termism which led to the destruction of the city's Lyceum Theatre is now threatening to dominate the argument about the future of the ship.
We could have merely closed up Big Pit in 1980 and let it rot. The fact that we did not means it brought more than 149,000 people to see it last year.
We could have let Caerleon's Roman ruins remain underground. The fact we did not brought more than 65,000 people to see them last year.
In total, Wales' national museum sites had 1.65m visitors last year.
Heritage tourism is a major part of the Welsh economy.
And a maritime museum housing one of the most important ships discovered in Britain - with world-wide importance - would clearly be a major driver in any local economy. Creating jobs, helping to secure small businesses.
Short-term financial pain, huge long-term financial gain.
We were lucky that the ship was discovered in Newport. We were lucky to have an historical gem wash up in the mud of the bank of the River Usk.
Other areas would eye the find enviously, think about what they could do to capitalise on such a lucky piece of their heritage had it been discovered elsewhere.
The Welsh Government has just spent £12.3m buying a business park near Bridgend to "attract new business and new jobs".
The business park is home to technology and life science firms including Sony.
It has also spent £52m buying Cardiff Airport because it recognised the importance of good transport links in this country to our economy.
It is clear Newport council does not have the funds to properly capitalise on this wonderful piece of our heritage.
And the ship does not belong to them, it belongs to the people, it is our heritage, a reminder of this city's maritime past, a treasure for future generations.
So it is high time the Assembly took note of the strength of feeling here about its preservation and the need to display it properly. And put their money into it.
We reported on Saturday that research indicated for the first time it was a two-decker capable of transatlantic crossings.
Local AMs are urging Newport council and the Welsh Government to pull together to turn the wreck of the 15th century merchant vessel into a major tourist attraction for the city.
Maritime experts believe the ship built with timbers from the Basque region was 36ft high from the keel to the sterncastle and overall including the main mast up to 80ft.
The timbers of the ship excavated at the site of the Riverfront Arts Centre in 2002 are currently stored at a unit on Maesglas Industrial Estate.
However, the unit’s lease will run out this autumn and no permanent venue has yet been found to preserve it.
William Graham, Conservative AM for South Wales East, said: “We knew it was an immense treasure and this new discovery confirms how important this vessel is in maritime history.
“Newport should be fighting to retain this treasure and display it adequately.”
Lindsay Whittle, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East, added: “This is really exciting and fascinating news and once again highlights the importance of ensuring the permanent future of this ship.
“While public money is tight it is important that all public bodies – including Newport council and Welsh Government – pull together and work towards making this wonderful medieval ship a major attraction for tourists. This ship needs and deserves a permanent home in Newport.”
Plans to open a museum for the ship at Newport Centre were discussed last year but are now understood to have fallen through. The Argus was told by the chairman of the Friends of the Ship in February that one estimate for a museum would be around £30m.
The council is now looking at options including a trust taking over responsibility for the timbers.
It appears that in some quarters these timbers are seen primarily as a burden to be shifted elsewhere, a headache.
We could have left them to rot in the grey mud of the Usk.
The fact we did not, the fact we have spent precious resources conserving them, shows that we recognise how important they are.
The fact we are still prevaricating about what best to do with them shows how badly our mindset has been damaged by recession.
We need an attitude adjustment.
We need to think of Newport's future.
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