Southland museum closed to public by earthquake risk

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery is to close to the public indefinitely due to an earthquake risk.

Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Photo: Supplied/Facebook/Southland Museum and Art Gallery

The Invercargill City Council announced the decision at a press conference this afternoon.

The museum will close to the public at 5pm on Thursday.

In a Facebook post, the museum said this was an “unexpected development for the team”.

“The Museum Trust Board recently received expert advice regarding the earthquake strength of the museum buildings. This advice was a peer review of the 2013 seismic assessment of the museum building which concluded that the museum buildings are less than 34 percent of the New Building Standard.”

The museum said there had been no decisions over the mid-to-long term options for the museum, although the board and council were considering the possibility of a temporary location.

Decisions on continuing the services housed at the buildings, including that of the council‘s i-Site, will be made in coming weeks.

The Invercargill City Council employs 41 staff who work at the site.

Council chief executive Clare Hadley said staff would be withdrawn from the buildings as soon as possible.

Ms Hadley said the decision was not taken lightly, but it was an unreasonable risk to allow staff to occupy the site long term.

The peer review was undertaken by structural engineer Win Clark, an advisor to Heritage New Zealand, who determined the original assessment was fair, and concluded the museum buildings were probably “earthquake-prone”.

The Southland Museum and Art Gallery Trust Board owns the museum buildings and the collection within. In 2004 the Trust Board entered into a contract with the Invercargill City Council to manage the museum on its behalf.

In 2017, Invercargill City was identified as a “medium risk” seismic area. This means building owners will have 12.5 years to fix or demolish their building after receiving a notice from Council that it is earthquake-prone.