Heritage museum shuts doors

By Chris Steel

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Museum manager Paula Gaelic believed "core responsibilities" from the Government would have protected the museum.
Museum manager Paula Gaelic believed "core responsibilities" from the Government would have protected the museum.

The Katikati Heritage Museum ceased operating and closed its doors yesterday, despite 200 submissions from across the district supporting one of Western Bay of Plenty District Council's options to fund it.

After an industrious effort by the community, a passionate manager and a dedicated group of volunteers, the trustees of the museum's charitable trust told the council this week it was no longer able to continue operating.

Its closure saddened trustees, who had been exploring all alternatives to keep the facility operating until its financial problems could be resolved. Trustee Mike Williams said the decision had hit them hard, particularly because of its impact on the staff, who had lost their jobs, and the many volunteers who had devoted so much.

"These volunteers have put a huge effort into this operation. It has not only been the work they have loved doing but it has become a social hub for them. All this will be lost with the closure.

"We have really made a good go of it and now there is a significant collection that reflects the rich history of the Western Bay."

Museum manager Paula Gaelic told the council that a large mortgage guaranteed by the council and the museum's monthly running costs had kept them busy trying to stay afloat.

"It has taken time to position and collate a correct set of financial accounts, to put systems in place, and develop a business plan - the funding application organisations' standard requirements. Up until now this picture was not clear, factual or complete.

"This allowed the opportune time to ask council for assistance, for two-way communication, to seek constructive opinion and positive ideas, to work on a solution to move forward and to make this work. I believed the 'core responsibilities' from Government would have protected the museum.

"The council going guarantor at the time of the purchase indicated to me an acceptance of this responsibility."

Katikati Community Board was 100 per cent behind the museum. The council had proposed in this year's draft annual plan to rate-fund $65,000 of principal interest costs to enable the facility to continue operating for the 2014/15 financial year.

The council has reached an agreement with the trust to acquire the museum collection to hold it in storage.

Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson said: "I have been a staunch supporter of the museum and I continue to see this collection as an important cultural and historical asset to use within the wider town centre development we will be undertaking over the next few years."

The museum's land and buildings will be put on the market.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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