Whanganui's museum may have to close on Mondays, shed staff and reduce its programmes if Whanganui District Council doesn't increase its funding, councillors have been told.
Whanganui Regional Museum acting director Libby Sharpe, former director Frank Stark and joint council chairman Marshall Tangaroa fronted up to the council's property and community services committee on Tuesday.
Stark was commissioned by the museum's joint council to analyse its financial position and put forward options for funding. Stark's report, presented at Tuesday's meeting, will become a submission to the council's annual plan, with the funding decision to be made during that process.
He outlined three possible scenarios.
If the museum continued running on current council funding of $900,000 a year, it would have to look at closing on Mondays, reducing staff and restricting programmes.
If it gets an extra $175,000 from council, it could do two major exhibitions a year and deliver planned outcomes.
With an extra $300,000 a year, it could do three major exhibitions a year, host touring exhibitions and seize more opportunities for outside income.
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The museum building closed for two-and-a-half years while about $3.5 million worth of seismic strengthening was done and re-opened in March last year. Having strengthening done was a brave move by council, Sharpe said, and benefited the museum hugely.
"We now find ourselves struggling to live up to what's expected of us, because of our budget limits," Sharpe said.
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It would be "a sad waste" for the museum to go backwards now, she said.
The museum is a "destination in itself" for visitors and on track to host 70,000 this year. Most (83 per cent) are local, with 11 per cent from New Zealand and 6 per cent from overseas.
A steady 17 to 18 per cent of museum funding comes from other sources, such as $76,000 a year from the Education Ministry for education programmes.
The ministry will not talk about increasing that, Stark said.
Some New Zealand museums have regional council funding, but Whanganui's was "rebuffed" by Horizons Regional Council, he said.
"We are forever looking at all the grants we can try to capture," Tangaroa said.
Museum entry is free. Councillors Alan Taylor and Kate Joblin suggested charging visitors to Whanganui for entry.
But Sharpe said New Zealanders don't expect to pay to go to a museum. Visitor numbers dropped 83 per cent when Otago Museum started charging, and Stark said they "went off a cliff" when the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth tried it.
Tangaroa, Sharpe and Stark hoped the council would go for option three, the biggest funding increase.
"We have got a huge taonga and we have got to keep it sustainable for another 150 years," Tangaroa said.