Southern museums missing out, director tells council

Ian Griffin
Ian Griffin
Otago Museum is doing well but Dunedin residents are suffering because almost all government cash for museums goes to the North Island.

Museum director Dr Ian Griffin lamented the lack of central government funding for regional museums at yesterday's Dunedin City Council community and environment committee, saying South Islanders were missing out.

''There is some moral argument to say that perhaps the South Island should have some opportunity to get funded so that its residents have the same opportunities as those in the North Island,'' Dr Griffin said.

When asked by Cr David Benson-Pope how the museum's efforts to push for some sort of ''contestable fund'' for non-Wellington museums was going, Dr Griffin said so far there had been little success.

''It's not really on the political agenda,'' he said.

Government funding would help it employ more staff to preserve and present its ''nationally important'' items.

''I could do more things that would benefit not just us, but the people of the whole country.''

Cr Benson-Pope said on a visit to Dunedin, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson indicated it was his view such a fund would be ''desirable''.

''I think there is an opportunity for those involved in the ... museum to make a direct approach to Mr Finlayson.

''It's a good time for new initiatives,'' Cr Pope said.

A spokesman for Mr Finlayson said the minister was aware of the issue, but ''no formal policy work has been done''.

If there was a policy on supporting regional museums it ''would have to utilise existing funds'', the spokesman said.

The Crown was already ''instrumental'' in securing the museum funding through the Otago Museum Trust Board Act 1996, which empowered it to levy ratepayers for operational funding.

Museums could also apply for central government funding for major construction projects.

Meanwhile, Dr Griffin went over some of the key points in the museum's quarterly report to July, which was tabled at the meeting.

''We think we have had a really good year at the museum.''

In the financial year to the end of June there had been 508,829 visitors, including 11,000 to the newly opened museum annexe in the former Dunedin North post office.

That was an increase of 8.7% on the previous financial year, when there were 464,670 visitors.

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