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Central Otago Heritage Trust chairman David Ritchie has successfully convinced the Central Otago District Council to delay bringing museum management in-house.

The district’s museum sector now has three months to convince the council it can work together on a management model to co-ordinate museum activities and collections in the Cromwell, Vincent, Teviot and Maniototo wards.

When developing the 2021-31 long-term plan last year, the council suggested it create a new heritage role and manage all museums in-house.

The role would be funded by $49,000 in previously allocated council grant funds and part rate-funded at $35,000.

At present museums receive $167,200 a year in council grants and a further $180,100 in building maintenance and running costs.

Answering questions from Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan last week, chief adviser museum strategy Saskia Righart said the museum sector had recently come up with a management model not previously considered.

Previous efforts to bring the sector together had not hit the mark, but it was heartening to learn the sector had agreed to work together, she said.

“Staff see merit in this idea but we need to do a bit more work on it . Staff do believe it is worth working through,” she said.

She was keen to have a museum sector meeting next week, Dr Righart said.

Council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs said the council could not adopt the new option because it did not exist during the planning process, but councillors could say what they wanted done to get to that position, she said.

Mr Ritchie said a new museums body would be independently chaired and could operate in a similar way to the heritage trust.

It would be able to apply for grants and the benefit would be a “by museums for museums” approach, he said.

Working together would be cost-effective and the council would not have to be involved in its day-to-day running, which would be supported by the museum sector, he said.

Cr Nigel McKinlay asked Mr Ritchie why heritage and museums could not be combined in one role.

Mr Ritchie said he supported an in-house heritage role in the council’s planning department.

However, museums needed to work with other museums, as a group, and required different skills and backgrounds, Mr Ritchie said.

“We [the heritage trust] are not looking at running any specific body and feel it is best to leave museums to museums.”

Dr Righart said if the museum sector’s proposal did not “pan out”, then the council could fall back on its preferred option.

Mr Cadogan said he supported a three-month delay.

“They came forward with a solution themselves, which is great, but I want that light to keep shining,” he said.

Cr Neil Gillespie said the museum sector had been struggling with a collaborative model for some time and it was great a new idea had come up.

A total of 330 submitters supported in-house council management.

The status quo operating as stand-alone supporters, while 26 submitters suggested museums receive no funding at all and 115 submitters wanted the council’s heritage and museum roles to be expanded.