Toni Biddle, chairwoman of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery Trust Board, outside the museum in Invercargill [file photo].
The Southland Museum and Art Galley trust board has learned it does not own the pyramid museum building in Inverrcargill which it decided to close nearly two years ago.
Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley has advised the board she has received legal advice saying the museum building is owned by the city council, and not the museum board.
Museum board chair Toni Biddle said board members were shocked by the news.
“It has been thought for many years that [the museum board] was the owner of the building.”
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The city council, which manages the museum, resolved to pull staff from the earthquake prone pyramid building nearly two years ago, but it was the museum board that resolved to close it.
“Now it appears it was not our building to close,” Biddle said.
The city council should have been responsible for closing it, she added.
Biddle, who is also the Invercargill deputy mayor, said the city council was now responsible for the museum redevelopment.
“We now need to lobby the council to get on and resolve what they are going to do with the museum.”
Last year, the three Southland councils resolved to support the museum becoming a department of the city council – and the museum board endorses the museum governance being transferred from itself to a department of the city council.
Hadley indicated it was a good thing, in terms of future museum redevelopment, that ownership and governance of the museum was with the city council.
“There’s [now] a clarity about the ownership and governance of the museum … I understand that has always been difficult to achieve in previous museum redevelopment proposals.”
A report to the city council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, prepared by Hadley, says research into the museum ownership uncovered a letter written by the museum board to the council in 1960 clarifying, “as you council is the owner of the building and the board is responsible only for the internal operation of the museum”.
The report says there is a proposal for the museum activity to be brought “in-house” to the city council, and for the museum collection to be governed by an independent trust.
Friends of the Museum member Bob Simpson said he would like to see evidence the museum belongs to the council.
“I would like to see a title or something.”
He believed there was never an established case to close the museum.