Review to look at sustainable future for Whanganui Regional Museum

Museum Chair Marshall Tangaroa says he is most grateful that the review will focus on the museum’s viability and sustainability.

Whanganui District Council has agreed to provide a one-off grant of up to $250K to the Whanganui Regional Museum to address its current financial situation – but says it wants to review the museum’s governance, funding and service delivery model to ensure the future of the museum is financially sustainable.

Chair of the Whanganui Regional Museum Trust, Marshall Tangaroa says, “Unfortunately there are a number of issues that have contributed to the museum’s current financial situation.

“As we all know the cost of all consumables has risen considerably and general inflation has put severe pressure on the museum’s finances. Also in the current economic climate, fund raising is much more difficult, leaving the museum with an income shortfall.”

Whanganui District Council is the primary funder of the museum, which operates as an independent trust. The council currently provides the museum with an operating grant of $1.125M per annum.

Mayor Andrew Tripe says this is proposed to increase to $1.3M in the council’s draft Long-Term Plan 2024-2034. “This funding, should it be approved, won’t start until 1 July 2024,” he says, “which isn’t soon enough to address the museum’s short term cashflow needs.

“In the meantime, we have agreed to respond to the museum’s request by granting the one-off emergency payment, but this is on the condition that the council undertake a review of the Whanganui Regional Museum to ensure its sustainability in the years to come.”

He says the museum holds an important place in Whanganui’s community and the wider region. “The Whanganui Regional Museum is strongly linked to our identity and understanding of our past, present and future. It has been visited and appreciated by generations and plays a key role in preserving our natural and cultural heritage. We want this review and its outcomes to ensure the museum’s viability for many more generations to come.”

The council’s chief executive, David Langford says under section 17A of the Local Government Act, councils are required to periodically required to review each of their activities to ensure the governance arrangements, funding and financing, and delivery model are fit for purpose and cost effective.

“While the trust owns the museum collection and governs the development and operation of the museum on behalf of the community, the council owns the building that houses the museum, holds a service level agreement with it, and is its primary funder.”

He says, “As the museum operates under bicultural governance, is bicultural in its operations, and holds many taonga on behalf of iwi and hapū, there will need to be appropriate consultation for the review.

“By mutual agreement, an independent consultant that specialises in this type of work has been selected to undertake the review, which is estimated to cost $36,000. The review is expected to be completed before the end of the financial year.”

Museum Chair Marshall Tangaroa says he is most grateful that the review will focus on the museum’s viability and sustainability. “The museum is so important and holds priceless taonga that connect deeply into the community. There are many stakeholders and supporters who will be pleased that the council is supporting our irreplaceable cultural heritage in this way.”

Karen Hughes

7 May 2024