Draft figures look better than expected

The Otago Museum has achieved a better-than-budget operating outcome seven months into the latest financial year, despite its popular tropical forest attraction generating less income than expected.

The forest is home to about 1000 brightly coloured tropical butterflies, and is part of the museum's Discovery World science centre.

Recently released draft accounts show the museum has achieved a healthy operating position after the first seven months of the financial year, starting on July 1 last year.

The museum recorded an overall operating surplus of $125,623, well up on an initially budgeted small loss ($257) for the period.

Otago Museum treasurer Mike Horne told a recent Otago Museum Trust board meeting he expected the final operating outcome would be close to breaking even, before taking depreciation into consideration, at the end of the financial year on June 30.

Three museum cost centres were well ahead of budget: the executive office, up $27,817 on a projected $30 deficit; collections and research, including the tropical forest, up $180,362, from a projected $55 deficit; and programmes, up $35,365, from a projected $41 deficit.

By contrast, the exhibitions, development and planning outcome was $121,290 worse than a projected $83 deficit, and finance and support was $24,115 worse than the budgeted $21 deficit.

Tropical forest income, at $211,091, was $58,909 below budget, but more than offset by cuts in forest staff wage costs ($58,984 better than the $115,596 projected deficit), and a $57,210 improvement on the budgeted $179,390 deficit in butterfly costs.

Exhibitions, development and planning director Clare Wilson has said that, although the initial surge of visitors to the forest when it had opened in late 2007 had since somewhat reduced, it remained a popular attraction.

Latest figures show overall attendance at the science centre, which includes the forest, dropped only slightly, from 57,924 to 54,087, in the comparable period.

And overall science centre admissions income, at $317,847, was down only 1.8% (from $323,468) on the corresponding stage in the previous financial year.


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