News Update 13 July 2011

The latest museum news round-up is full of positive stories of happenings in museums and galleries around the country as well as the effects of more earthquakes in Christchurch and the recovery efforts.  You can find this in the members’ area of our website here (note: you need to be a member of Museums Aotearoa to access this information).

More rounds of consultation are underway aorund the country.  Especially at the local government level, this seems to be continuous – if not drafting the next Annual Plan, there’s a specific topic such as animal control, transport or parking to consider, or another round of Long Term Plan consultation.  One reason for this is that we’re living in a time of constant change.  So it seems incredible that many of us, including Museums Aotearoa, are still operating under 103-year old legislation.

Currently much of our not-for-profit sector is governed by the century old Incorporated Societies Act 1908 – an Act which the Law Commission argues is in need of major reform.  Introducing the review, Law Commissioner Professor Geoff McLay says preliminary consultation and research suggested there were a number of problems with the old Act including the lack of adequate processes for dealing with conflicts of interests and resolving internal disputes.  “Getting basic governance structures right, understanding what is appropriate conduct for those who govern societies, and providing for suitable mechanisms for resolving disputes is critical for all organisations, especially those which seek government or other sponsorship. The 1908 Act, in our view, does not require societies to ask the appropriate questions when they are being set up. Nor does it provide incentives for already existing societies to improve.”

The Law Commission has released an Issues Paper exploring the shortcomings of the 1908 Act, the implications of possible changes, and seeking public input into the review/reform process.  The paper acknowledges the valuable contribution of non-profit organisations, especially incorporated societies, to society as a whole.  It seeks to create an ‘enabling environment’, with a balance between greater accountability and governance controls, and unnecessary compliance costs.

The range of issues and options for reform raised in the paper includes:

  • minimum governance rules as a condition of incorporation
  • a code that makes the obligations of committee members clearer
  • how to provide for the resolution of disputes between members and their societies
  • what rules ought to be required to societies’ constitutions
  • whether a new Incorporated Societies Act should also replace the ability to incorporate under the Charitable Trusts Act

There are 23,052 incorporated societies and 20,106 charitable trusts in New Zealand.  A quick search of the register brings up 99 societies and 113 charitable trusts with museum or gallery in their name.  These include not only museums and galleries themselves, but also friends and supporters organisations, and some institutions have two or more societies and trusts associated with them.  I encourage all museums and galleries to look into the implications and opportunities raised by this review, to seek input from your governance bodies and legal advisors, and to respond to the Law Commission by 30 September 2011.

Te Papa  is also in consultation mode.  They have already done a great deal of work with their staff, and are now seeking wider stakeholder input into developing Te Papa’s proposed vision and ten year strategic plan.  There is an online discussion, ‘Envisioning the Future’, where you can provide direct feedback.  The Te Papa Statement of Intent 2011-2014 has also been released, and can be downloaded here.

On the national stage, we’re gearing up for two major festivals – the Rugby World Cup 2011 and November’s general election.  Your views on the election issues and policies as they affect our sector are invited, and MA will be bringing you some commentary as we get closer to the election.  However, we’ll leave the rugby commentary up to others!

And on a final note, we’ve just been sent this picture by the folk at the Far North Regional Museum, which we shall share with you. They’re going full steam ahead with preparations for moving into the Te Ahu complex, Kaitaia’s new multi-purpose community facility.  Te Ahu will be a focus for both visitors and local communities, bringing together the functions of museum, i-Site, Library and exhibition space, alongside a cinema, council service centre and other community activities.  More images, plans and information is on the Te Ahu website here www.teahu.org.nz

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