WCC funding of Te Papa

May 9th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The is consulting on its long-term plan, and one of the things they have proposed is cutting funding for from $2.25m to $1.0m. This is a very stupid thing to do in my opinion.

Before I get to the substance, a note on process. The City Council only told Te Papa on the day of their Council meeting that they were proposing a funding cut of 56%. That borders on incompetence. You don’t pull surprises like that on institutions without warning. There should be regular communication on issues such as funding.

Now why is the Council trying to cut funding by 56%? It is because they are spending too much money elsewhere, and are trying to keep rates from increasing too much. I support keeping rates down, but the problem is not the long-standing funding to Te Papa, but all their new spending projects.

A key issues is that 70% of the Te Papa funding does not come from residential ratepayers but from the Downtown Levy. This is a levy on basically tourism businesses such as hotels, restaurants, bars and the like.  The tourism sector are perfectly happy paying this levy. In fact they are up in arms that the Council is proposing a reduction. What the Council in fact is trying to do is to spend the Downtown Levy on general Council spending rather than Te Papa which generates an economic return.

How big an economic return do Wellington businesses get from having Te Papa in Wellington?

An economic assessment by Market Economics calculates a contribution to Wellington GDP of $91m a year.  50% of all visitors to Wellington visit Te Papa. On average there are 560,000 international visitors a year. 14% of domestic tourists and 4.7% of international tourists cite Te Papa as the main reason they came to Wellington. This represents a tourism spend in Wellington of $58.9m.

You can see why tourism businesses are so happy to pay the levy, and are pissed off at the Council for cutting it.

At an absolute minimum the Council must keep the $1.575, funding from the downtown levy going.

Is there a case for the other $675,000, which comes from ratepayers? Well 450,000 of Te Papa’s visitors are from within Wellington Region. It is used extensively by locals. But further because Wellington is lucky enough to have Te Papa here, we probably spend less on other galleries and museums.

The WCC spends $8.4m on museums and galleries (excluding Te Papa) which is $18.72 per person in the region. If one includes the other Councils, it will be more, but not massively so as most of the institutions are in Wellington City. Auckland Council spends $56.2m which is $37.82 per person in their region. I think Wellington ratepayers do pretty well out of the $675,000 they are being asked to fund Te Papa.

So I hope Councillors do the right thing and reverse the spending cut. Not because I am against spending cuts. But because Te Papa brings in a huge amount of tourism revenue, and cutting tourism spending is a false economy.

What is interesting is that almost all the Councillors generally seen as on the right are against cutting Te Papa’s funding – because they understand that economically it is a silly thing to do. The Councillors who have been voting in favour of cutting the funding have generally been from the left – including the three Green Councillors (including the Mayor). Is it because the Greens want less tourists to come to Wellington as it is “bad” for the Environment?

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32 Responses to “WCC funding of Te Papa”

  1. artemisia (234 comments) says:

    Would rather fund Te Papa than Zealandia, frankly. I always take overseas visitors to Te Papa (free admission), never to Zealandia (definitely not free admission).

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  2. big bruv (13,689 comments) says:

    “The WCC spends $8.4m on museums and galleries”

    Why?

    Don’t fund them at all, make the people who want to visit the galleries and museums pay an admission charge that is sufficient to cover the cost of running them.

    If they cannot make it on their own then tough luck, close them down and sell off the land and buildings.

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  3. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    At this time time society simply doesnt have the money to spend on culture and related things. Everyone has to cut back – and that goes for places like Te Papa as well.

    These bodies who take public money are very slow to get the message.

    Here in the waikato there are plans to expend libraries at great cost. Theyre stupid. What they need is many fewer books and a couple of internet terminals. No one looks up the encylopedia anymore – they go to the net. Especially for reference book material. And many cases it would be cheaper to dump library fees and put ones money to kindle books.

    Times are a-changing.

    Did you hear the one about they guy sitting on the sidewalk out side his house with a stack of the latest World Book beside him. He hald up a sign that said:

    “latest issue of world book for sale
    – going cheap.
    No longer needed
    as wife knows everything”

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  4. Ed Snack (1,839 comments) says:

    Well, having been to Wellington and visited Te Papa, my only contribution would be that it’s way over rated at the price. It’s “nice”, but very “Wellington”. That is, pretentious, over-rated, and largely paid for by someone else. I can’t now imagine making the trip from even, say, Porirua to Wellington just to go there.

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  5. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I’d support cutting spending on museums (with their net economic benefits) if the government also cut spending on other things with no such benefits – like the roading programme.

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  6. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    “It is because they are spending too much money elsewhere………..”

    Exactly. Local government politicians and managers, like those in central government, have a sense of entitlement that all money they gather from the community should be theirs to spend. They hate money being given out to others, no matter how strong the argument. Without scrutiny their instincts are to use all available funds to employ more bureaucrats, in turn adding to their own status

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  7. RRM (9,786 comments) says:

    I love how DPF has set out a reasoned argument about why Te Papa is worth funding (and fairly precisely HOW worthwhile it is)…

    …and yet 3 of the first 5 comments are basically “NO taxpayer funding AT ALL for public toilets!” from ideologues :-)

    It must be hard, going through life with a giant political chip on your shoulder about this that and the other thing…

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  8. KiwiGreg (3,234 comments) says:

    Well RRM except DPf hasn’t made any reasoned arguments.

    He states that tourism operators are happy to pay for Te Papa, if true they dont need the intermediation of the WCC they can just fund it directly. I doubt very much that tourism operators are “happy to pay” if they weren’t forced by the levy.

    Obviously ratepayers arent “happy to pay” because their rates are also extracted by force.

    The only people “happy to pay” are those who freely whip out their admission fee and their clearly arent enough of those to make Te Papa viable.

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  9. KiwiGreg (3,234 comments) says:

    Frankly it’s the same inside the beltway love of funding with other people’s money “public” broadcasting, libraries, orchestras, opera and the “arts” that I’ve seen in many such posts.

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  10. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Wow, there are a few culture haters here. For a reasonable contribution through taxes and rates, we have very fine museums, libraries and galleries. Like other facilities, not everyone uses them. Maybe sometime in the future we will have the technology to charge every citizen on the basis of whatever they use, from parks and sports grounds to roads and footpaths. Until then, the nirvana of a museum-free city isn’t happening.

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  11. 2boyz (257 comments) says:

    To a certain extent it’s like biting the hand that feeds you’ Te Papa brings a lot of people to the city, council should look at other areas to save money or charge for that matter. I bet a lot less people visit the City Art Gallery or city to Sea Museum (why not charge a entry fee for those of a couple of bucks).

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  12. big bruv (13,689 comments) says:

    mikenmild

    “Maybe sometime in the future we will have the technology to charge every citizen on the basis of whatever they use, from parks and sports grounds to roads and footpaths.”

    Bloody great idea. We could start by doing away with rates and introducing a poll tax so renters and state house tenants don’t get a free ride on the back of the home and property owner.

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  13. RRM (9,786 comments) says:

    so renters don’t get a free ride on the back of the home and property owner.

    LOL, yeah, my landlord gives me free stuff all the time. Wait, what?

    You’re surprisingly selective about what you want left up to The Market, and what you want the gubermint to control…

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  14. KH (694 comments) says:

    Te Papa may be good economically and a great attraction.
    But it’s overfunded and underefficient.
    Full of overpaid and overbearing staff.
    There is plenty of scope for cutting the funding.
    And still having a good museum.

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  15. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    I f I was a Wellington resident I would be up in arms and legs over monies given to the place. Its crap.

    And as for the pretentious, Museum of New Zealand , nothing but more Wellington wank.

    Spent Saturday at the Auckland War Memorial Museum and even without being parochial it kicks Te Papa’s arse.

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  16. trout (934 comments) says:

    If Te Papa is so good why not charge an entrance fee?

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  17. unaha-closp (1,158 comments) says:

    Convert a couple of floors into a casino, it will pay for itself in weeks.

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  18. dime (9,805 comments) says:

    “LOL, yeah, my landlord gives me free stuff all the time. Wait, what?”

    well you dont pay his rates do you?

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  19. annie (539 comments) says:

    Ed Snack (641) Says:
    May 9th, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Well, having been to Wellington and visited Te Papa, my only contribution would be that it’s way over rated at the price. It’s “nice”, but very “Wellington”. That is, pretentious, over-rated, and largely paid for by someone else. I can’t now imagine making the trip from even, say, Porirua to Wellington just to go there.

    I have to agree. Te Papa is pretty boring, and informative only on a very basic level compared to the old museum. The visiting exhibits are often worth seeing, but the others tend to be expensively over-curated to little point. Information accompanying items is sparse for fear of frightening the populace.

    And it’s a money sink. I agree with the City Council, it’s time ratepayers’ money was treated with a little more respect. The local intelligensia love to see public money spent on theatres and the arts, institutions which benefit only a small proportion of ratepayers city-wide.

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  20. flipper (3,952 comments) says:

    My grand children “love” ” our place “.
    To them, it is one great fun arcade.
    To me, it is crap. It is NOT a museum.

    But sadly, Te Papa is what we have.
    It is yet another example of a “horse” designed by a committee of self important idiots.

    Te Papa was borne in the Department of “Infernal” Affairs. Those that spawned it have long since moved to other fields (or passed away).

    It was never going to fly – without the theft of other peoples money!

    WCC must pay up this year, but decline to spend other peoples money thereafter.

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  21. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Te Papa is brilliant. As a building it is an awesome piece of work and the permanent exhibitions are very well done. I have yet to meet an overseas visitor than hasn’t be enthusiastic about it.
    I’m not sure what gets some people going about it – too successful and not enough like the ‘old museum’?

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  22. wiseowl (861 comments) says:

    Ratepayers shouldn’t be funding The Museum of New Zealand.

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  23. RRM (9,786 comments) says:

    well you dont pay his rates do you?

    He charges for the service. The service is the use of the house. I pay to receive the service. Where’s the free ride?

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  24. Muzza M (291 comments) says:

    Never set foot in the place, when they exhibited the Madonna in a condom that was it for me. And no I am not a Catholic, in fact I don’t like that institution at all. But the Madonna in a condom was personally very offensive. Imagine the uproar if they posted a picture of a Maori standing outside a TAB, fag in his/her mouth, and a bottle of beer in either thier right or left hand. And their benefit application in thier top pocket.

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  25. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    with that little rant I presume you’re a hori Muzza

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  26. Viking2 (11,371 comments) says:

    RRM (4,510) Says:
    May 9th, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    so renters don’t get a free ride on the back of the home and property owner.

    LOL, yeah, my landlord gives me free stuff all the time. Wait, what?

    You’re surprisingly selective about what you want left up to The Market, and what you want the gubermint to control…

    Perhaps you could familerize yourself with this than.

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1986/0120/latest/DLM95084.html

    sub section 2.
    Basically says that the tenants don’t pay rates. Indeed it makes it illegal to charge tenants rates so that makes the argument that rates are included in the rent simply not so. What you pay is for the use of the dwelling, not the use of council services.
    Which you should be billed for.

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  27. Muzza M (291 comments) says:

    No Paul none of that blood in my heritage, I wish I had some.

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  28. RRM (9,786 comments) says:

    V2:

    Nice try, but that says the landlord doesn’t forward the rates bill to the tenant for payment.

    If you are trying to tell me landlords don’t operate their rental properties in such a way that they make a net gain from their investment, you’ll have to excuse me for a moment while I duck for cover until these pigs have flown over…

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  29. V (693 comments) says:

    The greens just don’t have a clue.

    I think people would pay a small entrance fee for Te Papa, although they normally have a fee for some of the specialist exhibits, so there is a balance to be had. Many major museums around the world have a small fee, although some like the Smithsonian don’t. A few dollars a person probably wouldn’t hurt.

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  30. Mark (1,473 comments) says:

    This is one of a number of central government responsibilities foistered on local authorities to fund. I like Te Papa. It is a museum that everyone in the country (apart from a few jafas simply pissed it is not in Auckland) can be proud of. To me the only disappointing thing is that Frank Geary wasn’t chosen as the designer by the Rowling led committee but that said tourists and NZ visitors are complimentary of the museum and rate it as a well worthwhile place to visit.

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  31. Paulus (2,603 comments) says:

    Best suggesrtion is to close Te Papa Disneyland down.
    It’s awful – I will never again take overseas (or local)visitors to it.

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  32. cubit (356 comments) says:

    Te Papa does not rate as an international museum. It really does not cut it as the national museum. They have huge collections of artifacts – in storage. The majority of displays never change and the style and tone is not very distinctive at all. There are far better museums in NZ that seem to have more relevance. Taranaki, Hawera (privately owned) Waiouru, Wigram, Southland and of course Auckland. A better name for Te Papa would be Te PC.

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