How Te Papa plans to cut costs

21:51, Apr 17 2012
Sharon Courtier
Sharon Courtier, a visitor to Te Papa, holding her note.
save te papa
A message on one of the notes left on the board.
save te papa
One of the notes left on the board.
save te papa
One of the notes left on the board.
save te papa
One of the notes left on the board.
save te papa
One of the notes left on the board.

Fewer overseas exhibitions, or entry fees to its children's discovery centres, are among the options Te Papa is considering after Wellington City Council cut its funding.

This month, the Wellington City Council signed off its draft long-term plan which included a proposal to cut 55 per cent of Te Papa's funding - from $2.25 million a year to $1m.

Chief executive Michael Houlihan said the museum was looking at different ways to deal with the loss of funding, though no decisions had been made.

"Our position at the moment is obviously we can't rule anything out; everything is going to be considered," he said.

"But we're not panicking, we're focusing on a very positive argument on the economic value we provide to Wellington."

Of the funding from the council, 70 per cent was provided by the Downtown Levy, meaning businesses incurred the biggest cost in funding Te Papa.

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But they also reaped benefits from increased hospitality, accommodation and transport from the 76 per cent of visitors who came from out of town or from overseas, Mr Houlihan said.

The museum remained hopeful it could overturn the funding cut, and would make its submission to the council within the next couple of weeks.

The submission will include a collection of Post-it note messages that visitors have been asked to stick to a board in Te Papa's foyer.

Te Papa spokesman Filipo McGrath said there was no budget for the feedback process.

"We had to scour the building for Post-it notes. [It's been] cheap and effective."

Wellingtonians made up 24 per cent of visitors to the museum and they had the chance to identify which areas they wanted to be cut, Mr Houlihan said.

"We're trying to be really careful about this, and trying to look at Wellington-specific benefits.

"The key thing is every dollar Wellington invests in us, there is a return of $41, so we're not actually a burden on the ratepayer at all. We net-contribute to the economy."

Among the cuts being considered are a decrease in the number of international exhibitions, from every year to every 18 months, a reduction in the number of free days for Wellington residents at exhibitions, or reducing the exclusivity of exhibitions.

"There is a menu of options we have got to look at."

Art and artefact purchasing would not be affected because funding for that came directly from central government, Mr Houlihan said.

Support for the museum was also coming from a Facebook page Wellingtonians for Te Papa, created by Thorndon student Hamish McConnochie.

The 22-year-old said he was concerned about what the cuts would do to Wellington.

"Any other city in the country would love to have Te Papa so the council should value the asset and recognise the benefit it has on tourism.''

The Dominion Post