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During Queenstown Lakes District Council annual plan submissions on Friday, David Clarke sought to secure one-third of the funding for the $3.5million seismic-strengthening project required by law, along with restoration of the heritage building and upgrading displays.
The project began in 2014 and had cost about $200,000 to date.
Subject to funding, work was to begin in February.
"It’s a huge amount for an organisation like us and can’t be achieved through raffles and sausage sizzles," Mr Clarke said.
"Clearly, Covid-19 has decimated our income, and that will be for a couple of years I imagine and [affect] our ability to fundraise."
Mr Clarke said he had tried "every avenue" of funding during lockdown — an application to the shovel-ready fund was declined, but the project had been sent on to the provincial growth fund.
"The issue is we need a third of the funding in place before we can proceed," he said.
The museum, which was not council-run, had largely stood on its own two feet since it was established by the three borough councils in 1948 for the benefit of the district at large.
While it was "extremely grateful" for the annual council grant, that was contestable and equated to "something like $5 per ratepayer per annum".
"I know there has been talk in the district of us being a ‘cultural desert’. I know that’s far from the truth; we just lack the facilities to showcase talent in all its forms and I know the council’s aware of this and seeking to address this.
"I think the council needs to help existing cultural institutions ... before building new ones.
"We are much more than a museum — we hold the district’s taonga, photographs, papers, oral history, records, club records, organisational records and feel responsible for these and worry about what will happen to the collection if we’re forced to close."