Museum Saga Takes A New Twist With Ownership Revelation

Feb 28, 2020
5487 Views

Just when the Southland Museum saga couldn’t get any crazier, it’s been revealed that SMAG (Southland Museum Art Gallery) who everyone was lead to believe were owners of the building, are not.

The true owner of the museum building is Invercargill City Council as documented in the agenda for the ICC meeting to be held on Monday 3rd March.

The Museum Trust Board wrote to Council 5th August 1960 clarifying “as you Council is the owner of the building and the Board is responsible only for the internal operations of the museum”.

SMAG chairperson Toni Biddle released a statement to What’s on Invers saying:

“The SMAG trust board have been advised that research suggests the Museum building is not owned by SMAG, but is actually owned by ICC. I have since learnt this morning that the CE has had legal advice to support this and that there is nothing on the lease to indicate that equitable ownership of the Museum building/improvements sit with SMAG”.

“This information has been reported in the ICC agenda for the 3rd March Meeting of full Council. The Trust Board are very surprised by this news. It has been thought for many years that SMAG was the owner of the Museum building. After ICC resolved to endorse the CEO decision to pull their staff from the building it was SMAG that resolved to close the building. Now it appears it was not our building to close”

Below are some of the information form next Monday’s agenda. Read the full Agenda here

OWNERSHIP OF MUSEUM BUILDING
It has long been thought that the SMAG Trust Board owned the pyramid building, and Council owned the land on which the building sits. The report to Council in September 2019 referred to SMAG being the owner of the building. Research on this point suggests this is wrong.

The Museum Trust Board wrote to Council 5th August 1960 clarifying “as you Council is the owner of the building and the Board is responsible only for the internal operations of the museum”.

In addition, there is nothing in the lease to indicate that (equitable) ownership of the museum building/improvements sits with the SMAG Trust. Clause 22 of the lease shows that a deed of surrender of the lease and cancellation of the leasehold title may be sufficient for the site and building/improvements to revert to ICC as fee simple owner/lessor. This clarification eases one part of the transition. Council –

FUTURE GOVERNANCE – SOUTHLAND MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY 71 A2925326 OWNERSHIP / GUARDIANSHIP OF THE MUSEUM COLLECTION

The collection has come about through the gifts and funding of the people of the Southland region. To some degree, support for transfer of the activity of the museum is coupled with the concept of ownership of the collection being held by a regional trust. References to the collection are to those items which the Museum owns without restriction. There are also pieces in the collection that are on loan, or have conditions that apply. If the collection was to be owned by a trust, there are two options: ∑ Museum’s collection is owned by a new entity; or ∑ Museum’s collection is owned by SMAG Trust, operating under a modified/repurposed and retitled Trust Deed. If a new entity is established, the consultation requirements of the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA) will apply because a new Council Controlled Organisation will be established. If the SMAG Trust Deed is modified/repurposed, the consultation requirements of LGA do not apply. This is because it is not a change in the mode of service delivery. The process for altering the SMAG Trust Deed would sit with the SMAG Trustees. Southland and Gore Districts have both undertaken to fill their vacancies to ensure that the Trust can conduct its business while working through transitional issues. Southland District Council has made an appointment. Gore District Council has yet to do so. All councils would need to be clear with their appointees as to what outcome they were seeking.

TUATARA
The tuatara have become an integral part of the museum experience. Their presence has been valued and enjoyed by Southlanders and tourists alike for many years. The oldest tuatara, Henry, is a known identity in the City. What is less well known is that there are many tuatara in Invercargill, housed at the museum and at least two other locations. An application has been lodged with the Department of Conservation for a permit to hold 20 tuatara – 15 in the Pyramid building and five offsite. This has the support of local iwi. Reducing the tuatara colony down to 20 animals requires the transfer of approximately 80 to islands in the Marlborough Sounds. For welfare reasons, this transfer is not likely to occur until autumn. DOC is unlikely to issue a permit until the transfer is complete because to do so would mean SMAG was immediately operating outside the permit. There is no Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place and establishment of one was going to follow the issue of a permit. It is understood any MOU would be between Ngati Koata and Ngai Tahu, and then Ngai Tahu would enter into an MOU with Council as providers of care for the tuatara. Discussions are underway for this to become part of the Parks’ activity, as this department already has a considerable range of animals under its care. STAFF The staff are already employees of Invercargill City Council. There would be no changes to their arrangements. Council –

FUTURE GOVERNANCE – SOUTHLAND MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY 72 A2925326 CONSULTATION

Preliminary legal advice is that consultation is not necessary if the Trust is repurposed, as there is no change in the mode of service delivery; Council is not establishing a significant new activity; and at this stage, the financial consequences for Invercargill City Council are not significant. However, much of the funding of the museum comes from the regional heritage rate and Council knows that matters relating to the museum is of importance to some in the community. For these reasons, it would seem appropriate to include this in any draft Annual Plan. SMAG Trust Board asked that there be consultation with its iwi komiti. The Chair of SMAG and the Chief Executive met with Evelyn Cook, iwi appointee on SMAG, to seek guidance on consulting with iwi. The preliminary advice is that a trust with ownership/guardianship for the collection, which recognises those items not owned by the collection, or on loan from whanau (cared for under the collection principles of the museum) would be acceptable. The clear guidance is that it is critical to everyone that iwi continues to have a voice in decision making, and continuing to have representation on the collection trust would be important. Further consultation will take place with iwi during the Annual Plan consultation, and the outcome of this would be communicated to Council representatives on the SMAG Trust.

Read the full Agenda here

 

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