MTG makes changes after flak flies

By Roger Moroney, Simon Hendery

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The drop in price was welcomed by MTG director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown
The drop in price was welcomed by MTG director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins yesterday. Photo / Duncan Brown

A report highly critical of the region's newly revamped MTG cultural facility has cost the Napier City Council $34,000.

However, the cost of the independent consultants' report represented "good value", council chief executive Wayne Jack said yesterday, and the MTG was already moving to introduce many of its recommendations.

The report accuses the MTG (Museum Theatre Gallery Hawke's Bay) - the revamped Museum and Art Gallery Hawkes' Bay, which reopened last September after an $18million upgrade - of having "lost its way" and being out of touch with ordinary visitors.

Patronage at the facility this year is forecast to be below the number who visited before the revamp. "MTG Hawke's Bay is an institution whose potential has yet to be realised," the McDermott Miller report said.

"It is well sited and designed to draw people in, but they are not responding. It lacks facilities which other museum developments have in abundance - a cafe and other commercial concessions, for example. It should be regarded as a work in progress."

The council released the report on Tuesday and moved immediately to lower the cost of entry, from $15 for adults to $10 - taking ticket prices back to the cost before the upgrade.

The drop in price was welcomed by MTG director Douglas Lloyd Jenkins yesterday. "I do think $15 has been a challenge. That's what you pay to see a movie with a $40million budget ... I hope in time to become a free institution - that would be fantastic."

He rejected the report's findings that the MTG was focused on catering to "established museum and art gallerygoers" and that "the general population and lower socio-economic groups are not seen as potential audience segments" for the facility. "I think there is something for everyone," he said. "Are we elitist? I would hope we're not."

Mr Jack said the museum was already displaying more of its taonga Maori, as suggested in the report, and the council was working on other initiatives including a new marketing plan and addressing storage issues to free up more room for displays.

The report said if recommended changes to the MTG's operation were introduced, visitor numbers could be lifted from an expected 31,400 this year to 44,000 to 58,000 per annum.

That would lift annual revenue from $421,000 to between $583,000 and $753,000, with a resulting drop in the council's funding for the facility.

Mr Jack said he believed those figures were achievable, but he was unconvinced there was value in adding a cafe given MTG's proximity to several "fantastic" existing cafes.

Hawke's Bay Museum Trust chairwoman and former Napier mayor Barbara Arnott said she was pleased the operational review had been carried out and pleased people were talking about it - but believed the whole MTG issue had been blown out of proportion by some people who had expressed their feelings and opinions without "thinking it through".

She had full confidence in the management.

The trust, which owns the MTG Hawke's Bay collection, will meet soon to discuss the report in detail.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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