A secret report into one of the country's most high-profile museums has found entrenched bitterness against a backdrop of criminal allegations and court battles.
The Museum of Transport and Technology hopes the report marks a turning point.
The discontent occurred in a period which has seen three civil legal actions, two criminal probes and a complaint to the Auditor-General.
There have been two high-level inquiries into the museum, which last year attracted about 320,000 people.
The more recent was carried out by former Te Papa museum chief Dame Cheryll Sotheran. The Herald has been told it was critical of the board and its clarity of direction. The results are being considered as part of the museum's strategic plan.
Acting board chairman James Doughty said there was a focus on "improvement from the board down".
He said the board would not release Dame Cheryll's review at this stage.
"You can't change the fact there have been incidents ... There's absolutely no point in having fighting within the same team and the vision for moving forward will be both clear and positive."
Motat gets $10 million - about 77 per cent of its funding - from ratepayers under legislation which formed a new body out of its volunteer roots.
Four of its 10 board members come from the Motat Society, which started the museum in 1964. The others are appointed by the Auckland Council.
Relations between the two bodies were governed by a "memorandum of understanding" which expired in April 2010. Society chairman Andre Pointon said a new agreement had yet to be reached. He said there had been problems in completing the formal agreement between the board and society.
The subcommittee charged with completing it had not met this year.
"A lot of the problems come from management not understanding volunteers and volunteers not understanding management."
Funding for the society, which comes from Motat, had been frozen for years. Tensions between the society and Motat led to an Employment Relations Authority case which ended last year. The cost of the case, which went against the society, eroded $49,000 of its savings. The remaining $20,000 was spent after the society was riven by a member seeking a High Court challenge over funding the case.
Two key volunteers involved in the failed ERA case have ceased involvement with the museum.
One was also subject to an investigation over the use of a fuel card. He has since won an apology over "distress" caused by the accusations.
The same member made complaints to the Office of the Auditor General and then to the Human Rights Commission. He refused comment, citing a recent, confidential settlement.
Another volunteer, Lyndsey Whittle, said he was "sacked" a few months ago after a dispute with a board member. He said the absence of board chairman Paul Bayly added to problems because he lived in Australia and had recently been in Europe.
The board has also faced an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. The Herald has been told the inquiry is in its final stages. An internal review and a separate investigation by auditors identified no concerns.
Museum director Jeremy Hubbard said there had been tensions as the museum increased visitor numbers year-on-year over the past decade.
"Change doesn't always suit everybody. That's not to be hurtful or unkind. Enthusiasm and passion are not the only requirements when you are looking after a museum."
Mr Bayly said that he lived in Australia but spent half his time here and returned for board meetings.
Before leaving, he had been involved in setting up Dame Cheryll's review. He said a governance expert had been hired to assist the board.
STATE OF MOTAT
* Two reviews - by Professor Bill Hodge and Dame Cheryll Sotheran.
* Three civil legal actions - Employment Relations Authority case, High Court judicial review, Human Rights Commission proceedings.
* Two criminal investigations - a Serious Fraud Office inquiry, police involved in an inquiry over fuel-card use.
* A complaint to the Office of the Auditor-General.