$400,000 blowout in museum budget

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014

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Napier's new museum is costing more and earning less than expected.

Recent reports have revealed that the new building is too small to store its collection, and that it had exaggerated past visitor numbers.

Napier City Council's finance committee has been confronted with a report informing it that expenditure on the museum in the year to date was $2.2 million, or about $200,000 more than budget, and revenue was $677,998, or about $200,000 less than budget.

The report notes that a comprehensive review was under way into the development.

It explains the results by saying the museum opened later than forecast, there were fewer paying visitors than anticipated, and personnel and energy costs were higher than expected.

It also said that there was a $100,000 donation that had yet to be added to the revenue.

The report said that 51,881 people visited the museum in the October-December quarter, well short of that needed to meet this year's target of 690,000.

However, the council agreed this month to change the target to a more realistic 120,000, after there appeared to be no basis for the 690,000 figure.

In light of the revised visitor numbers, the operating cost of the museum per visit jumps from $6 to $32. This is the total operating cost ($3.75m) divided by the forecast number of visits (120,000).

Not discussed at Wednesday's meeting was the recent discovery that the new building can store only about 40 per cent of the collection supposed to fit in it.

On Tuesday, former Napier mayor Barbara Arnott, who now chairs the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, said "parts of the collection were never intended to be stored in the new MTG building".

This was news to sources close to the development, who said it was always intended to house the entire collection.

A 2009 feasibility study on the development, obtained by The Dominion Post, stated that storage space would increase by 150 per cent in the new museum.

But Ms Arnott, who as mayor led the development alongside current mayor Bill Dalton, said changes in the way items were to be stored had meant more space was needed.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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