The issue of whether to charge visitors to New Plymouth's premier art gallery has been raised at the New Plymouth District Council's annual draft plan meeting.
Well-known Taranaki artist John Sargeant said admission to the Govett-Brewster and the Len Lye Centre should be kept free.
"Where there are special exhibitions such as travelling exhibitions and those with a significant cost over and above the standard should attract an entrance fee, but those with a Puke Ariki card be allowed a discount of around 50 per cent."
Entry fees would reduce visitor numbers, Sargeant said.
"Visitors to Taranaki come with a budget in their pockets and if they don't spend the money at the admission, they'll spend it at the shop or the cafe."
But Morris West, of Frankleigh Park, wanted the council to reduce Govett-Brewster's annual funding from $3 million to $2m and a further $500,000 for each of the following years.
"Should GBAG wish to do so, they can charge an entry fee or sell off some of the items that they tell us are so valuable," he said.
West said the council's responsibility as dictated by the central government was to "promote art, sports and other activities to further the community".
"It does not require you to finance a very small section of the arts community while abandoning all others," he said.
Councillor Keith Allum asked West: "What would your reaction be to have free entry to library card holders and all other visitors be charged?"
West replied: "Do library card holders get free access to the pool, do library card holders get free access to the rugby, do library card holders get free access to buses? No. No free rides."
About 50 people spoke to the New Plymouth District Council about its draft annual plan on Wednesday.
The council will meet on Monday to further discuss the submissions and make decisions about what is included in the annual plan.
In the 11 hours of hearings some ratepayers called for lower rates, while others wanted higher rates, and some didn't care what the rates were as long as there was zero debt.
The plan will influence the district's rates for 2014/15.
- Taranaki Daily News
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