Museum closure to have ripple effects

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The Southland Museum & Art Gallery.

THE flow-on effect from the shock Southland Museum & Art Gallery closure could be wide-ranging.

Invercargill City Council (ICC) chief executive Clare Hadley conceded there may not be enough money to go around and various planned projects for the city could be affected as the council now works through the museum’s future.

The ICC is committed to a museum presence in Invercargill and will now investigate just what that presence will be and how much it will cost.

Councillors met on Monday morning and agreed to remove museum staff from the building because of safety fears.

The Southland Museum & Art Gallery Trust board then met and decided to close the museum indefinitely.

Mrs Hadley said a peer-review of a 2013 seismic assessment report said the building met less than 34% of the national building standards. The building was deemed to be earthquake prone.

The ICC had that advice in 2013, but Mrs Hadley said the law was different and two pieces of legislation changed last year around health and safety in the workplace and building standards.

ICC’s long-term consultation document, released to the public this month, said a museum redevelopment was set for 2027-28.

Mrs Hadley acknowledged the long-term plan could now be up in the air, given this week’s surprise news.

SMAG Trust board chairwoman Toni Biddle (left) and Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley. Photo: Petrina Wright

The museum was likely to cost ratepayers more closed than it did when it was open, given there was no source of income, Mrs Hadley said.

“We need to get a handle of what the costs would be before we can make a decision and keep moving forward, or whether we put it into the [long-term plan] and potentially consult on it.”

The ICC initially planned for a museum development in 2027, but that may now need to be fast-tracked.

Included in the ICC’s 2018-2028 long-term plan are various proposed projects.

There is a plan to strengthen Anderson House at a cost of $1.7 million, to contribute $6.3m to develop a new arts and creativity centre, build a new $5m Living Dinosaur Experience, which would house tuatara and kakapo, and also construct an additional pool at Splash Palace at a cost of $6.3m to ratepayers.

The Southland Indoor Centre Charitable Trust board is also asking ICC to bump its annual contribution up from $400,000 to $700,000 to help maintain the current standard of ILT Stadium Southland.

“[The museum situation] may prompt council to reprioritise things, and again that depends on further information we are able to gather,” Mrs Hadley said.

The ICC is now working with the 41 museum staff around how the closure might affect them. Redeployment at the ICC is a potential option, but it is believed more than half are likely to be without jobs.

The ICC is considering options around services which need to continue at the museum building, and how to make arrangements for staff to be able to continue those services.

Included is the tuatarium, with the tuataras to remain at the museum.

Venture Southland is looking into an alternative location for the i-SITE information centre, which is currently based at the museum.

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