Museum dispute ends with compromise

Long-disputed funding to support the Otago Museum's obligations under the Protected Objects Act has risen about 40% through a compromise deal with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Under the Act, the museum is required to assess and authenticate heritage treasures, including Maori taonga (treasures), submitted to it by auctioneers or other members of the public.

The museum has often received about $7000 a year from the ministry for the work, although, several years ago, amid much protest, this was cut to $500.

The ministry had reallocated funding because of a much larger volume of heritage assessment work carried out by the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

A letter from Brodie Stubbs, manager of the ministry's heritage operations unit, offering an increase of about 40%, to $10,000, for the 2009-10 financial year, was tabled at last week's Otago Museum Trust Board meeting.

Museum exhibitions, development and planning director Clare Wilson said the increased funding was a compromise the museum had made "in the interests of addressing a long-term unresolved issue" and to "move forward".

In late 2008, museum chief executive Shimrath Paul said it would be "irresponsible" for the museum to continue to accept the $7000 figure and warned that museum staff would be instructed, within a matter of days, to "cease processing" under the Act unless an acceptable agreement was reached.

At that stage, the museum was seeking $15,000 a year, as well as a consumer price index adjustment, over the next three years.

Ms Wilson said Otago Museum administrators had been criticised by "some people" for being in dispute with organisations such as Te Papa and the ministry over issues which the museum saw as matters of principle.

However, "one-by-one" many of these issues were now being favourably resolved.

The recent resolution of a long-running dispute between Te Papa and the Otago Museum and other regional museums over Oldman collection items was another "good example" of that, she said.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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