We've got a wee problem

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2014

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Napier City Council has been caught short after discovering that thousands of people it thought were visiting its museum were just popping in to use the toilets.

Now it needs to revise its 10-year plan after finding that the projected visitor numbers for its new $18 million museum and gallery were based on inaccurate figures.

The plan, adopted in 2012, predicted 690,000 visits would be made annually to the new MTG Hawke's Bay, which opened in September. New chief executive Wayne Jack said not only was that figure "a bit odd", but he had no idea where it came from, and it appeared to be largely based on people using the public toilets and a shortcut that existed in the old museum building.

Jack, who has held the role since September, said the 690,000 figure was a mystery to him, as the number of people entering the old building was found to be just 303,921 in the 2009-10 year.

Of those, just 61,695 actually entered the museum. The other 242,232 used the toilets or the shortcut between Marine Pde and the city. He said he would be looking into the calculations used to arrive at the figure of 690,000.

The old museum and gallery closed in July 2010, and was replaced with the MTG Hawke's Bay, which has no public toilets or shortcut. The 10-year plan projects 690,000 visits in the 2013-14 year, and 680,000 in the next two years.

Jack said he would be discussing the error with the council, and the figures would probably be adjusted to 120,000 this year and 150,000 for the next two years.

However, he said all important decisions concerning the museum, including funding, had been based on the number of people actually entering the museum and gallery space, not the 690,000 figure.

"Museum figures all across New Zealand tend to count people using facilities, including shops and cafes, but not necessarily experiencing the museum itself.

"However, they are still using the building, so the figures are still relevant. Obviously we're more interested in getting people to see our amazing new museum and gallery than monitoring who is just passing through. The thing we want to do is lure them through the doors and then get them to stay and enjoy MTG."

Napier has a population of 57,800 and about 1.5 million visitors a year. Visitor numbers to museums in other cities with higher populations and more visitors would appear to make the 690,000 figure unusually high.

Last year Te Papa had 1.3m visitors, Auckland Museum 847,000 and Canterbury Museum 484,575.

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- The Dominion Post

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