Letters fail to sway in bid for $70,000

Maurice Watson
Maurice Watson
Despite letters of support from leading New Zealand  arts figures, Alexandra’s museum and art gallery Central Stories did not receive $70,000 for a collections manager in the Central Otago District Council’s 10-year plan.

Central Stories Museum & Art Gallery general manager Maurice Watson made a submission to the 2018-28 10-year plan, asking for a $70,000 increase in the museum’s annual council grant  to employ a collections manager.

Eight letters of support from people including actor Sam Neill, artist Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner were included in the submission.

Mr Watson’s submission said compared with other districts in the area, Central Otago’s spend per head of population on museums was low.

The submission said  the Waitaki district, for example, spent $28.81 per head, while  Central Otago’s spend was only $5.58 per head.

This evidence came from conversations with directors/managers of museums and public art galleries in similarly sized South Island districts.

But the council decided against it at this time.

"I don’t think it’s a safe decision today," Mayor Tim Cadogan said.

"We don’t know enough today to add $70,000 to the long-term plan, based on one side of the story.

"We need another look to have a broader discussion on museums in Central Otago."

He also said because the scoping study for moving the Alexandra Public Library into Central Stories was still under way, any such decision would be "somewhat premature".

Cr Malcolm Topliss, who sits on the Central Stories board, said he was disappointed with the council’s decision.

"I totally disagree. We know it’s all needed. I’m not supportive of the decisions made."

Central Stories chairman Malcolm Macpherson, who did not attend the council meeting, said it was "disappointing" but  he was still optimistic.

"It’s a conditional victory ... My understanding is the essence of the [council’s] response was ‘never say never’."

Mr Watson said if that was the council’s response then he would "like to see it in writing".

The submission to the plan suggested employing a collections manager was "critical", he said.

While Central Stories ran a surplus last year, Mr Watson predicted a deficit of $17,600 for this financial year as the museum board had decided to dip into its reserves to employ an exhibitions technician on a two-year contract.

Central Stories received an annual grant of just over $120,000 from the council, which amounted to 48% of its revenue, Mr Watson said.


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