The Southland Museum and Art Gallery will close to the public indefinitely by the end of this week (13 April 2018).
The decision has been made by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board, with the support of the Invercargill City Council, after the Trust Board recently received expert advice regarding the condition and safety of the Museum buildings in the case of an earthquake.
That advice was a peer review of the 2013 seismic assessment of the Museum buildings. The peer review, undertaken by structural engineer Win Clarke, confirmed the buildings were less than 34 per cent of the New Building Standard, with Mr Clark concluding the buildings are probably ‘earthquake prone’.
The decision to close the Museum was confirmed at a meeting of the Trust Board this morning.
Invercargill City Council Chief Executive Clare Hadley proposes to begin withdrawing staff from the Museum buildings as soon as practically possible. Mrs Hadley’s proposal was endorsed by Council at a meeting this morning.
While the Museum buildings and collections are owned by the Trust Board, Invercargill City Council is contracted to manage the Museum on the Trust Board’s behalf, and employs the staff.
There are 41 staff employed by Council who work at the Museum site. Council will begin a consultation process regarding the direct impact to employees based at the Museum.
Mrs Hadley has responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to provide a safe work place, and considers it an unreasonable risk to continue to allow staff to occupy the building in the long term .
She said the decision to withdraw staff from the building had not been taken lightly. “While we acknowledge this will be a difficult time for staff, and a period of uncertainty, we simply cannot take any chances with the safety of our employees.”
During the next few weeks options will be considered regarding services which will need to continue within the Museum, and how to make arrangements for staff to be able to continue those services. This will include consideration of the welfare of tuatara, which is a priority.
An alternative location for the i-SITE, currently based at the Museum, is being sought.
The Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board chair, Toni Biddle, said the Trust Board was devastated it had come to a closure of the community’s Museum.
“Our thoughts are with the staff who provide an exceptional service to our locals and visitors. They are assets to our Museum and we are all deeply saddened during this difficult time.
“The Trust Board is working incredibly hard on a solution with our immediate priorities being the wellbeing of staff, tuatara, and our collection,” Ms Biddle said.
“The Museum is iconic to our people and community, and the Trust Board is determined to find positive solutions for this asset, and our community moving forward. I believe all people who love the Museum, as we do, deserve that,” she said.
The Trust Board today agreed to progress an exit from the current building and look at relocating the collection to secure, appropriate temporary premises. The Board agreed it should work with Council to find what options exist for retention of staff for the relocation and ongoing cataloging of the collection, and to work with the Regional Heritage Committee to see how best to progress a regional storage facility.
The Council agreed that, in conjunction with other funding and management partners, Council is committed to the future existence of a Southland Museum and Art Gallery, in whatever form may eventuate from discussions.