Kauri Museum director makes compelling economic argument for funding 

A museum director is issuing a stark warning about what the loss of New Zealand's museums could mean for Kiwi culture and the economy.   

Museums across New Zealand are struggling and next month they will be turning their outside lights off in an omen of what may be to come without sustainable funding.    

Kauri Museum director Jason Smith joined AM to discuss the grim future institutions like his could be facing

The museum is in Matakohe, which sits one hour north of Auckland and is about half the size of Wellington's Te Papa.   

Smith said the museum brings in visitors from all over the world and Aotearoa.   

"It's truly the United Nations at the museum."   

The Kauri Museum receives no council or Government operational grant funding but still supports over 30 staff.    

On April 15, museums across the country will turn their outside lights off as an omen of what may be to come if they don't receive more sustainable funding.    

"Museums everywhere are affected by this," Smith said.   

"These are very very challenging times."   

However, funding is short nationally as the Government tightens its belt and asks public services to cut unnecessary funding.    

Asked how he can justify increased funding for museums when work needs done on water infrastructure and police are fighting for more pay, Smith pointed out funding the arts is an economic investment for New Zealand.  

"There is more than $270 million in GDP generated every year by the cultural institutions of museums and art galleries. If those places close, the economy as a whole shrinks, the knowledge base for children shrinks, the curatorship of our treasures completely disappears, and our stories into the future are not able to be told."   

He said sustainable funding is at the core of keeping the lights on.   

Smith also argued "we don't have the opportunity or space to say that the arts don't matter".   

"The notion of museums having to close their doors is just profoundly an existential crisis," Smith warned.   

"Their very purpose is to have the doors open, to be encouraging conversation and knowledge and inciting curiosity and getting people engaged in our human stories."   

He emphasised New Zealand's museums were filled with "taonga and treasures that tell our stories. They're not stories of some other country, they're stories of our place."   

Having access to these stories is a "basic human need", he said.