AN Invercargill City councillor has raised questions as to why an earthquake-prone Gore District Council building has remained open but the Southland Museum & Art Gallery has been closed.
A month after the sudden closure of the museum following a peer review into a 2013 seismic report, the debate as to whether the decision was an overreaction or not rages on.
The three-hour Invercargill City Council (ICC) meeting on Tuesday was dominated by discussion about the museum, including a group of passionate submitters.
One of those submitters was Lindsay Buckingham who has more than 40 years’ experience in the construction industry.
“With all due respect, a grievous mistake has been made and we need to recognise it,” he said.
If the rest of the country followed the ICC’s lead, 25,000 buildings throughout the country would be closed immediately, Mr Buckingham said.
Councillor Lindsay Abbott asked Mr Buckingham if he believed the ICC could have taken a similar approach to the Gore council when it opted to keep its civic building open despite parts of it also falling under the 34% threshold of earthquake standards.
“Yes, absolutely,” Mr Buckingham said.
“Gore are complying with the Building Act. They’ve declared it earthquake prone, they’ve put up a notice and they are getting it fixed. And again, they have 25 years to do it.”
Cr Abbot returned to the topic later in the council meeting when he again raised questions whether the museum closure was necessary.
“Today I heard such passion, I heard incredible statements, I heard information I wasn’t aware of before, and some of that very, very factual.
“Gore worries me, that it is a earthquake-prone building and is still allowed, under the right categories, to be utilised.
“I am wondering if we have been hasty and I’m not scared to say I may have been mistaken.”
Cr Allan Arnold also joined the conversation, asking if more investigation needed to be undertaken.
“Would it be prudent to look at it again, because we’ve had some good submissions explaining legal points and factual points, far more than what I know and what any of us know.
“Is it worth having a look at it again?
“Have we made the right decision?”
Mayor Tim Shadbolt said he expected the issue would not go away anytime soon and predicted more public debate around the council’s decision to close the museum.
Cr Lindsay Thomas asked if some clarification could be sought whether a sign at the museum building, highlighting to the public it was earthquake prone, would make it compliant.
He asked if that clarification could be presented at the next council meeting on Tuesday.
The good news for museum backers is the council has agreed to fast-track its museum redevelopment in its 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan.
It was originally scheduled for 2027-28 but the council has agreed to fast-track $9.5 million to ensure a museum redevelopment is in place in the next five years.
Councillors also voted to grant $200,000 for each of the next four years to help establish a temporary museum presence in Invercargill until the redevelopment was complete.
Only Cr Karen Arnold voted against that, saying nothing concrete had been put to councillors as to just what that money would be spent on.