17th May 2018

‘Open the Museum’ Team  

Don't destroy the museum to save it


Southland Times

Eastern Southland Gallery curator Jim Geddes and his team provide a lesson for Invercargill.

In The Southland Times of May 12, Clare Hadley, the new chief executive of the Invercargill City Council, wrote ''I visited the (Southland) Museum and could see the passion and commitment of the staff working there … That Southlanders love the museum is clear in their response" to the museum's closure (with three days' notice) on 12 April 2018 and to its staff being made redundant.  She goes on to state, "Retired Invercargill Architect Bob Simpson, has made a number of assertions. I have answered all his questions".


These comments reveal the unreliability of the advice Mrs Hadley is currently receiving.

To begin with, I am far from being retired. As my business card notes, I trade as an architect, builder and co-ordinator. I am a director of A4 Simpson Architects Ltd, A4 Design Build Ltd and A4 Somerset Development Ltd. I also manage three rental properties in Invercargill. 

However there are times to put other things aside and, in defence of what we hold dear, try to right wrongs. 

While I act as co-ordinator of the Open the Museum campaign, our leadership team includes several very competent professionals, not to mention our many supporters. Those interested to join us can find a fuller and more accurate record of our communications with the council on our website

19TH April 2018

Submission to the Invercargill City Council 2018-2028 Long-term Plan

The AGM of the Friends of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery was held at the Community Trust of Southland Offices at 62 Don Street, Invercargill at 7.00pm on Thursday 19 April 2018.

Re-elected chair Jim Watson withdrew from the chair for the discussion on the recent withdrawal of staff from the Museum and the closure of the Museum building, because of a conflict of interest. Mr Watson is a Trustee of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board, (appointed by the Friends of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery) which made the decision to close the Museum building.

Re-elected member of the Friends of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery committee, Bob Simpson, was selected to chair the rest of the meeting.

After the sharing of information and some lively discussion the following motion was passed with the request it be the basis of the Friends’ submission to the Invercargill City Council’s 2018-2028 Long-term Plan.

This motion was moved by Marion Miller and seconded by Lynley Dear. It was carried.

1.That the Friends of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery: Are exceedingly disappointed by the sudden closure of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery.

2. Ask for an urgent geotechnical investigation of the site and a new, thorough structural report on the building.

3. Ask that the staff should not be disestablished. In the interim the staff could provide museum displays in pop up style.

4. Note that because of these decisions, the museum community, consisting of the staff, and patrons including a whole generation of children, could     miss out on the Museum & Art Gallery. This has happened in the city wanting to be known as child friendly city.

5. Ask the Invercargill City Council to keep the museum and art gallery culture alive in the community. 

The Friends would like to speak to their submission

19TH April 2018

Stuff Article

Opinion: Time for action at Southland Museum and Art Gallery

Southland Times Bob Simpson 16:23, April 19 2018

The tuatara we celebrate at the Southland Museum have been around for thousands of years. Habitually they are quiet and stationary. Suddenly, they move quickly. Many people hope our new Invercargill City Council chief executive, Clare Hadley, will make some good things happen quickly.

On Monday April 9 Ms Hadley and Toni Biddle, a city councillor and chair of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board, announced the closure of the museum in three days' time. This decision generated prominent headlines and disbelief in our community.

It is good that the chief executive's report, recommending the closure, and the two reports from engineers, are available on the Southland Museum and Art Gallery website.

Under the current proposal many museum staff have had their jobs disestablished. They have until April 23 to express their views and the final decisions will be made on April 30. In the meantime, the community and the visitors who wish to visit the museum are faced with signs on the web site "Sorry we are Closed" or on the entry door "… Museum is permanently closed".

The staff and the Southland Museum and Art Gallery are vital for our community. The services the staff provide, and the experiences museums and art galleries provide, are important.

While the Richardson Group are building great museum facilities, our public bodies are closing our largest facility. What sort of town is this?

Since 1975 I have been a registered architect in Invercargill and I have worked in teams with good clients, engineers, quantity surveyors and builders. New Zealand is an earthquake prone country and it has been zoned into three levels of risk. Invercargill is in the middle risk zone.

What advice did the chief executive consider when making her recommendation to the Invercargill City Council to withdraw the staff from the museum? The article on the museum website states it was a 2013 seismic assessment report and a March 2018 three-page letter commenting on the 2013 report.

In the recommendations in the 2013 report it states: "carry out a geotechnical investigation".

Why has this investigation not been done?

Two experienced structural engineers have informed me they expect the ground conditions to be better than the assumptions made in the 2013 report.

They also question the occupancy loading of the building, chosen for the calculations.

If these engineers are correct, then the overall seismic rating of the museum building would be around 50 per cent of NBS (New Building Standard) without doing any strengthening work.

In 2006 I wrote in the book Murihiku the Southland Story, that "Bill Richardson was a man who cared about his city, but he didn't mince his words". At a packed public meeting 1993, he told mayor Tim Shadbolt that Invercargill needed to "improve its act". Bill spoke of his experience in dealing with councils throughout the country and described Invercargill's performance as at the lower end of the scale.

Many people who deal with the ICC have serious complaints about poor service. I hope our new chief executive can change the culture and employ some energetic, competent mangers.


On page 2 in The Southland Times on Wednesday April 18 there was an article "Gallery to get earthquake strengthening" with a picture of curator Jim Geddes outside the 1909 building in Gore, which now contains the Eastern Southland Gallery.

Mr Geddes says the building is "in pretty good nick". The article explains that in July this year work will start on a $800,000 building project to make the building safer. The building may close for about two weeks.

What a contrast with Invercargill. Mr Geddes has shown leadership in Eastern Southland since the 1980s and has a good team and community support.

Since the late Russell Beck resigned as director of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in 1999, we have not had a director or a manager who has had the skills and passion to provide the leadership this sector needs.

The chief executive's report under a heading of reversibility states: "The recommended decisions would be easily reversible should different information come to pass".

I recommend the trust board engage a competent structural engineer and get a test done of the ground conditions and review the occupancy class. Then maybe we could get the museum open quickly and save all the staff positions.

In the meantime, the current staff could set up exhibitions in the inner city, where there are plenty of suitable buildings available.

If you want to make a difference, make a submission on the Invercargill Long-term plan by 5pm Friday April 20 explaining you think art and museum spaces are important in Invercargill, and attend the city council meeting at 4pm on Tuesday April 24.


24th April 2018

Bob Simpson addresses council.

Mayor Shadbolt, councillors, staff and members of the public.

Recommendation for staff to return to the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, on Monday 30 April 2018.

1.My objective today is to get the ICC chief executive, to fulfil the commitment in her 9 April 2018 report to Council, on withdrawing the 41 staff from the Southland Museum and Art Gallery.

2. “The recommended decisions would be easily reversible should different information come to pass”

3. After the devastating Napier Earthquake in 1931, the building codes were modified. The original 1940 two storey Museum building, and the subsequent additions, have all been built to the current building codes of the day. They are not a significant risk, in the case of an earthquake.

4. “Two experienced structural engineers, who have a good knowledge of the ground conditions in Invercargill, have told me, they expect the ground conditions to be better than the assumption made in the 2013 Opus (seismic assessment) Report.

5.I now have a ground test, completed by a qualified person, which indicates the ground is likely to be in the “Soil Class C category,” as we expected.  The 2013 Report has assumed “ground category D”.

6. These engineers and I, also believe the occupancy loading used for the calculations is incorrect, for this type of building. We believe the correct occupancy class is “Importance Level 2” not “Importance level 3” as shown in the 2013 Report.

7. If our assumptions are correct, then the overall seismic rating of the museum building would be around 50% of NBS (New Building Standard).” This is without dealing with some other issues, in the 2013 Report.

8. Building professional, Lindsay Buckingham, has covered the legal responsibilities of the chief executive in his comprehensive letter to the Southland Times.

9. I believe this note contains the “different information”, Mrs Hadley needs, to reverse her decision.

10. Consequently, I think Mrs Hadley should promptly reverse her decision, and allow the staff to return to the Museum building.

11. For your information, I have asked the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board, to put on the agenda for their meeting, on Thursday afternoon 26 April, the opportunity for an engineer with local knowledge and the appropriate skills and experience contribute to the meeting by a conference call:

a. To comment on the 2013 Opus seismic assessment Report and on the 2018 letter from a Wellington engineer, who retired from full time practice in 2008.

b. To recommend what the SMAG board should do next.

12. I can see no reason why, with a little bit of cooperation, the Museum, could not be operational on Monday 30 April, and welcome the kids, for the second week of the school holidays.

29TH April 2018

Article by Lindsay Buckingham

The Chief Executives Report to Council dated 9 April 2018 recommended to the Invercargill City Council (ICC) that they withdraw all staff from the Southland Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG). The consequence of this action forced the SMAG Trust Board to close the museum.

I ask why and how did the Chief Executive arrived at this recommendation?

My contention is that the report is in large part based on two assertions which are factually incorrect and therefore the decision to withdraw staff and close SMAG are simply wrong and the decision needs to be reversed immediately.

With specific reference to the Chief Executive’s 9 April 2018 Report:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) is cited as presenting responsibilities and liabilities in relation to the the earthquake-prone building provisions of the Building Act. This is wrong and has been clearly repudiated on 17 April 2018 by WorkSafe who administer HSWA. “WorkSafe isn’t able to enforce legislation beyond the powers it’s ascribed by Government. If a failure occurs within the Building Act regime, that’s where it would be addressed. The Building Act requirements are not retrospective. The HSWA can’t, and shouldn’t, be used to strengthen building requirements over time.”

“The Chief Executive considers it inappropriate to continue occupation of the building without recognition of the engineer’s advice”.


The Opus 2013 Engineering Report concludes the building is earthquake prone. The Win Clark March 2018 review of the Opus report concludes the building is “probably earthquake prone”. The assertion that because the building is earthquake prone it must be closed is wrong and has been clearly repudiated on 26 April 2018 by MBIE who administer the Building Act.


“The Building Act does not require building owners to close or restrict access to their buildings once the building is deemed earthquake-prone or assessed as potentially earthquake-prone. However, the owner must display the EPB notice prominently on the building so the public can make their own decision in regard to entering/using the building.” Furthermore neither of the engineer’s reports recommend immediate closure of the building.

Further to the Chief Executives report it would seem that both the ICC and SMAG Trust Board members are collectively concerned about personal liability should the building remain open and collapse in an earthquake. This now appears to be the default basis for justifying the withdrawal of staff and closure of the building.


In response to questions the Chief Executive states that legal advice was obtained but this has not been made available publicly nor has a clear statement been made as all discussions around personal liability have been conducted in public excluded sessions of the both the ICC and SMAG Trust Board.

Invercargill City Council and SMAG

Article Posted on SMAG Website

9 April, 2018 from

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery will close to the public indefinitely by the end of this week (13 April 2018).

The decision has been made by the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board, with the support of the Invercargill City Council, after the Trust Board recently received expert advice regarding the condition and safety of the Museum buildings in the case of an earthquake.

That advice was a peer review of the 2013 seismic assessment of the Museum buildings. The peer review, undertaken by structural engineer Win Clarke, confirmed the buildings were less than 34 per cent of the New Building Standard, with Mr Clark concluding the buildings are probably ‘earthquake prone’.

The decision to close the Museum was confirmed at a meeting of the Trust Board this morning.

Invercargill City Council Chief Executive Clare Hadley proposes to begin withdrawing staff from the Museum buildings as soon as practically possible. Mrs Hadley’s proposal was endorsed by Council at a meeting this morning.

While the Museum buildings and collections are owned by the Trust Board, Invercargill City Council is contracted to manage the Museum on the Trust Board’s behalf, and employs the staff.

There are 41 staff employed by Council who work at the Museum site. Council will begin a consultation process regarding the direct impact to employees based at the Museum.

Mrs Hadley has responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to provide a safe work place, and considers it an unreasonable risk to continue to allow staff to occupy the building in the long term .

She said the decision to withdraw staff from the building had not been taken lightly. “While we acknowledge this will be a difficult time for staff, and a period of uncertainty, we simply cannot take any chances with the safety of our employees.”

During the next few weeks options will be considered regarding services which will need to continue within the Museum, and how to make arrangements for staff to be able to continue those services. This will include consideration of the welfare of tuatara, which is a priority.

An alternative location for the i-SITE, currently based at the Museum, is being sought.

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board chair, Toni Biddle, said the Trust Board was devastated it had come to a closure of the community’s Museum.

“Our thoughts are with the staff who provide an exceptional service to our locals and visitors. They are assets to our Museum and we are all deeply saddened during this difficult time.

“The Trust Board is working incredibly hard on a solution with our immediate priorities being the wellbeing of staff, tuatara, and our collection,” Ms Biddle said.

“The Museum is iconic to our people and community, and the Trust Board is determined to find positive solutions for this asset, and our community moving forward. I believe all people who love the Museum, as we do, deserve that,” she said.

The Trust Board today agreed to progress an exit from the current building and look at relocating the collection to secure, appropriate temporary premises. The Board agreed it should work with Council to find what options exist for retention of staff for the relocation and ongoing cataloging of the collection, and to work with the Regional Heritage Committee to see how best to progress a regional storage facility.

The Council agreed that, in conjunction with other funding and management partners, Council is committed to the future existence of a Southland Museum and Art Gallery, in whatever form may eventuate from discussions.


Related information:​

Opus Report

Win Clark Review

ICC Chief Executive’s Report

Fact sheet