Auckland Art Gallery considers hefty entry fee

  • 23/12/2017
Auckland Art Gallery
Auckland Art Gallery. Photo credit: Getty

Auckland Art Gallery is considering charging international tourists a $20 entry fee as its budget shrinks despite booming visitor numbers.

Council funding for the gallery has been cut in recent years, with its operational budget falling from $9 million in 2014-15 to $6.9m for the current year.

That's despite visitor numbers passing 520,000 last year, or 116 percent of its annual target.

Visitor satisfaction is also high, sitting at 90 percent, according to Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), through which the gallery's public funding is provided.

The funding cuts also come in spite of a 50 percent increase of exhibition space since the gallery's facilities and responsibilities were significantly expanded in 2012 to meet the needs of the super city.

In a statement, Auckland Art Gallery says it has tried new fundraising avenues to cover shortages - including new membership schemes, more corporate sponsorship and paid gallery tours among others - but has now been left contemplating "more significant changes".

In particular, it is mulling an entrance fee for international visitors and said a charge "in the realm of $20" would be realistic, based on other attractions around Auckland.

"New Zealand visitors would continue to enjoy free entry to the gallery," it said.

However, it said it was not considering closing the gallery for one or two days a week as had been rumoured.

Gallery supporters say a charge will see visitor numbers dwindle fewer people will have access to the world's largest collection of New Zealand art.

They've set up a Save Our Gallery website to call for public support as the gallery and RFA wrangle with the council for more funding.

Auckland Art Gallery
Auckland Art Gallery. Photo credit: Getty

The gallery, however, was downplaying the potential hazards of a charge.

"We are confident that our contribution to the vitality of Auckland and the cultural future of New Zealand will not be diminished," it said.

The RFA's acting chief, Simon Tran, says funding issues come from the council end.

"The last few years have seen consistent and ongoing reductions to the operational funding we receive from Auckland Council, which in turn has been shared across all our business divisions."

RFA was currently applying for more funding from the council's 10-year budget, he said.

"We cannot comment at this early stage on whether there will be an increase in funding for RFA, or what portion of this is likely to be allocated to the gallery."

Mayor Phil Goff says he is aware of the public funding constraints the gallery was facing and that it is looking at alternative funding sources as well as applying for more money from the council.

"Unprecedented population growth has placed significant pressure on our city. Our priorities, therefore, must be to provide infrastructure needed for transport, housing and a clean environment," he said.

"But I will not overlook those things that make Auckland a desirable place to live."

Auckland's War Memorial Museum charges adult international visitors $25 for entry. The art gallery currently only charges for tickets to some major exhibitions.