Museum issues raised in report

A confidential Dunedin City Council report has questioned the nature of Otago Museum chief executive Shimrath Paul's reporting to his board and raised the "wider issue" of the relationship between the council and museum.

This report, obtained by the Otago Daily Times under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, is the response by council general manager community life Graeme Hall to a January letter from Mr Paul to the council.

In the letter, Mr Paul had replied to a recent council review of museum staffing, energy, insurance and depreciation.

In his report, to the council community development committee, Mr Hall said Mr Paul's letter had tried to give the impression a council review report was "full of errors and inaccurate information".

"I have concerns that Mr Paul is providing a similarly flawed view to his board as to operational and management issues, as he has attempted to present to the council [in his letter]," Mr Hall said.

In his report, Mr Hall also noted what he believed were incorrect statements by Mr Paul over salary and staffing issues.

But Otago Museum Trust Board chairman Graham Crombie said in a statement the museum's letter, dated January 19, was intended to "clarify issues that we believe are not clear from the council report".

The letter was "written with the support of the trust board to ensure that the best interests of the museum were represented during council deliberations".

"There was no intention in our response to be critical and most certainly not to reflect negatively on any individual," Mr Crombie said.

The museum was realistic that its interests had to be considered "within the context of affordability", but there was also a need to "highlight the existence of genuine long-term funding needs".

"Having identified these, the museum has also clearly indicated to council that it does not seek any increase in the ratepayer contribution in the next financial year and that we are committed to working with council to achieve the best outcomes for all," he said.

The museum had proposed that the two organisations work together to address their "different understandings of the issues at hand" and the council had responded positively to this.

Asked about some recent media reports describing the council-museum relationship as "fraught" and "frosty", he said there was actually a good underlying relationship.

There had been some understandable differences of perspective, with museum administrators considering the institution's long-term needs, from a perspective of about 10 years ahead.

The council, in turn, was mindful of limited resources and was "doing the job I expect them to be doing, as a ratepayer", he said.

Community development committee chairman Cr Bill Acklin said there was scope for more dialogue and a more "inclusive" approach, including between city councillors and museum management.

He had only recently taken up the council committee chairmanship, new councillors had recently been elected, and new members had also recently started at the museum trust board.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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