No institution charges

Out-of-town visitors will not be charged to visit Dunedin's council-owned cultural institutions, but councillors have signalled they expect the institutions to find other ways of making money.

The council's finance committee yesterday considered a report the council had asked staff to produce on the idea of charging non-locals a fee for visiting Dunedin's council-owned museum, art gallery and Chinese garden.

The main concern of staff and institutions was that the entry fee would lead to a reduction in visitor numbers.

That could have indirect effects, including compromising the capacity to attract special exhibitions and grants using visitor numbers to make a case.

Council staff indicated that charging for value-added activities within facilities was the best option.

In moving the charges not be introduced, Cr Lee Vandervis said opportunities to maximise revenue from the facilities should be more actively pursued, and the results of a survey on a potential charges be considered by the council's new super marketing agency when it was formed.

Cr Mike Lord said it was these first-class facilities that brought people to the city and were, therefore, ''well worth keeping free''.

The council had tried charging previously (in the late 1990s) and it had failed, Cr Neville Peat said.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said he would reluctantly vote not to introduce a charge because there was still an issue with how these facilities could raise money to pay for additions to their collections, without relying on the council.

''The very idea of this investigation was to get some money so they could invest in their futures ... so we need to find another solution to that.''

Facilities should have that requirement as key performance indicator, he said.

Cr Jinty MacTavish and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull agreed.

Cr David Benson-Pope later suggested a visitor tax should perhaps be investigated.

Cr Richard Thomson said it was likely the public relations and branding that came from simply having more people visit the facilities and telling others about their experience outweighed any benefit from revenue from charging for entry.

The only councillor who voted to introduce the charge was Cr Andrew Whiley.

He said he found it difficult that ratepayers had to pay for visitors to the city to enjoy something for free, that there was a perception that things that were free were not as high a quality and that ''we're not talking big dollars anyway''.

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