Earthquake leaves Rotorua Museum closed 'until further notice'
The 7.8-magnitude tremor that reverberated throughout New Zealand last month has resulted in the closure of the famous Rotorua Museum and the loss of 20 jobs.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, museum director Stewart Brown announced that it would be shut down until April 2017, when they'll know the results of a seismic assessment.
"A preliminary report from engineers who have started a detailed seismic assessment has reinforced the need to take this action until we get the full picture," Mr Brown said.
"It's upsetting for everybody that we are having to do this - we have some excellent, very passionate staff and this was the last thing we wanted to have to do."
The category one heritage building, which is situated in the heart of the Government Gardens and adjacent to the Bath House, was severely damaged in the November quake that ravaged many parts of the country.
The historic middle part of the building, which has been in place since 1903, has seen new cracks emerge thanks to the tremor - and there's been movement in several key components of the structure.
The wings of the building either side, both of which were built in the last decade, were unaffected by the shake-up.
As a result of the museum's closure, 20 staff members will be out of jobs for a number of months - and they have now been offered redundancy packages.
The redundancies mainly affect those working in the museum's retail, customer service and hospitality operations, which make up approximately half of its staff - and Mr Brown said the rest will stay on "to continue those museum operations which we are able to relocate to other venues."
He said those out of a job will be given advice on what options to take by the Rotorua Lakes Council, and will have "potential for secondment to other divisions within council and to local tourism operators who have offered their assistance".
"We'll do all we can to help them find alternative employment and will work through options with staff individually," Mr Brown said.
"We're receiving a lot of support from a wide network including other museums, tourism operators, our volunteers and the museum millennium trust and we're very grateful for that.
"We understand this is an awful time of the year for people to be going through such a process but public and staff safety has to be our key priority."