Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Covid-19 impacts NZ’s major regional museums

John Gibb, Museums seek support from ministry in pandemic ‘crisis’, Otago Daily Times, 25 July 2020

Ian Griffin. Photo: ODT files.

The Dunedin, Christchurch and Auckland metropolitan museum directors will meet the Ministry of Culture and Heritage in Wellington in a bid to overcome the post-lockdown funding “crisis”.

“It reflects the serious nature of the challenges that we all face,” Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin said of the planned meeting.

The meeting’s aim was to share “exactly the situation” faced by the three museums and “help provide the solution”, he said.

Dr Griffin has long advocated a combined museum sector approach to address inadequate funding for regional museums holding treasures of international significance.

“Through an accident of history, the ratepayers of Dunedin have got this museum and its international-class collection.”

Nevertheless, given Dunedin’s relatively modest overall rating base, the museum collection ultimately deserved some national funding

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, including the loss of revenue from international tourists, had intensified earlier concerns and the Otago and Canterbury museum and the Auckland War Memorial Museum were seeking help.

About $2 million in Government funding had earlier been earmarked to support smaller museums, and the Government announced in late May an extra $18 million of Crown funding for the financial year 2020-21 to help maintain Te Papa’s core operations after Covid-19.

Dr Griffin said last month that the Otago Museum faced “severe financial challenges” and the Otago, Auckland and Canterbury regional museums were not covered by some existing post-lockdown funding arrangements.

Asked about the planned meeting with ministry chief executive Bernadette Cavanagh, likely to be held early next month, Dr Griffin said he had a “strong case” and believed the ministry would want to help.

Attendance at the Otago Museum had fallen about 10% since July 1, from 24,800 last year to 22,099, but the museum was trading well and had gained the extended staff wage subsidy until September.

However, more funding was clearly crucial, and in summer the museum would miss the income it had gained from overseas tourists, he said.


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