Hokitika's landmark Carnegie Gallery has been closed until further notice following a damning seismic report.

The 108-year-old front section of the Hokitika Museum has been found to meet just 12 per cent of the national building standard.

The Westland District Council has estimated it could cost between $250,000 and $300,000 to bring it up to the minimum 34 per cent.

Acting council chief executive Vivek Goel yesterday said the findings of the report had come as a "surprise" but in the interests of public safety, the council had restricted access to the building as of yesterday morning. It was cordoned off yesterday.


Mr Goel said staff would still be employed and would work out of the rear part of the museum which was not a risk. That part of the building, built in 1973, was the museum until the Carnegie Gallery was shifted in a heritage project in 1998.

Hokitika Museum director Julia Bradshaw said the bulk of its $2 million collection was housed in the rear of the complex.

She said the closure had come as a shock to staff yesterday and would be a huge loss to the community. "I think the community has a really strong attachment to the building.

"It's really disappointing to all the staff and volunteers involved but we will make the best of whatever decision is made and do the best we can for the community's heritage and stories."

She said an important discussion needed to be had about what to do with the collection in the interim. "The bulk of it is stored safety but it is all irreplaceable and actually priceless to the community. From my point of view I think the museum collection should be housed in an appropriate place and that's something that will be discussed."

Mr Goel said the council would be meeting on Monday to discuss the next course of action.

"The Carnegie Building is a much admired presence in the town. The council is aware of this and also that its museum houses an important collection of cultural and heritage items. It will be working with various stakeholders to decide how best to continue to store all items, while decisions are being made about the future use and repair of the Carnegie Building."

The museum employs 10 staff, or four full time equivalents, in a mix of part-time and full-time positions.

Mrs Bradshaw said visitor numbers had been steadily increasing in recent years with 17,000 through the doors last year. Mr Goel said there would be an adverse affect on income but they were not expecting any staff cuts.

"There is a lot of work in the research centre which will keep staff busy."

Exiting Westland Mayor Mike Havill said the council needed to move fast in assessing the work needed to bring it up to standard. He understood when the Carnegie Building was restored it was to 50 per cent of the building code at that time. However, since the Christchurch earthquakes the code had changed "and the building has been left behind".
"It's just a real blow. It's an attraction and a lot of people from out of the area and locals get a lot of enjoyment out of the museum."

- Greymouth Star