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Te Papa Collections Depart for Auckland?

September 19, 2013
A resident sent me this via email:
“The proposals to close the Tory St facility of Te Papa and move collections out of Wellington is a terrible prospect on all sorts of fronts. At present this is being dressed up as being in the interests of safety for the collections – but the facts do not bear out this position. In the past 150 years, since the establishment of the Colonial Museum in 1865, collections have been lost to vermin, damp, theft and neglect – but never to earthquakes. In the last two shakes there was damage in the Cable St building but no damage in the Tory St building – nothing fell, or was broken.
If the natural environment collections are moved out of Wellington we would be probably the only capital city in the world without sgnificant scientific reference collections. In Wellington we have several universities/polytechs, two major CRIs (NIWA and GNS) as well as the research staff at Te Papa (a number of whom are world leading figures and the sole experts in NZ in their areas of expertise). In addition we have the head offices of government agencies – Department of Conservation, Ministry of Primary Industries, as well as regional government. The collections serve as a critical resources for science and for a range of applications such as the identification of potential introduced species or biosecurity threats, and as a training resource.
The cost of the move to another location, and the risk to the collections is staggering particularly in the light of how little money is currently available for cultural and heritage assets, the general level of constraint on government expenditure and the constraints around science and research funding in general.
The collections at Te Papa are a national resource and held in trust for us all – among the institutions that hold natural heritage collections there is the strong view that the collections need to be distributed around the country to make them more available to a wider section of the population- to enable greater use. Auckland is well endowed with natural heritage collections at both Auckland Museum and housed in Landcare Research.
It is not only the  natural environment collections – apparently there is also the prospect of the Pasifika collections being moved away from the communities of interest within our region – and there is also the prospect of loss of art collections.
The value of travelling shows and of sharing specific items amongst institutions for specific purposes is very understandable  – but we are talking about the majority of the collections which are not designed for display but for reference and safe keeping – as heritage items from which we learn and understand our history and that of our nation.
This is an issue that our leaders need to take a stand on – significant amounts of money have been provided by the citizens of Wellington for Te Papa – and now the guts are being ripped out to support yet another move to Auckland.”
What do readers think? If we are trying to grow the knowledge economy in Wellington, do we need to take a stand on this? And how?
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