Treasury Provides a Counter-Point. 
Friday, March 3, 2017 at 12:48PM
Bill Barclay

A number of issues contained in my posts dated 21 and 28 February concerning The Treasury have been brought to my attention as being either inaccurate or incomplete for one reason or another.

I apologise for the distress that these sometimes flippant remarks have brought to those who have volunteered their time over many years – I should have made sure to get the facts verified before rushing to print as the result of some fundamental misunderstandings.

First and foremost was the issue brought to my attention by Marilyn Dobbs that the project document presented to Council was prepared by the trustees, and not Visitor Solutions Ltd, though it was the Council consultant who was present at the meeting and made the presentation on their behalf. His peripheral role was not made clear at the outset, and I consider that I had every right to believe that the Submission was his work based on infirmation provided by the Trustees. That such was not the case was at no point made clear.

The Visitor Solutions consultant took it on himself during question time to extrapolate on the fiscal advantages of the anticipated increase in visitor numbers which I could not see in any way supported by the actual figures provided to the meeting – hence my comment. The simple fact of the matter is that the table provided on page 9 of the submission did not make clear that it related simply to 'researchers’ – the heading on the table referred to ‘visitors,’ and it was these figures that I found surprising to say the least.

I have been informed that the only ‘visitor’ records kept are apparently in the signed visitor book, but these were apparently not considered sufficiently accurate to use in this context – fair enough, but estimates are often used in these situations and perhaps would have painted a more favourable, and quite acceptable picture for Council. It seems to me that just about every supplicant seeking  assistance from the Council comes armed with similar figures that are often dubious, and indicative only. My commenter agreed that this should have been the case, and it would certainly have changed my entire view of the proposal.

Other issues include the following:

My commenter was concerned to explain the context of the original Council funding in case any false view had been formed as to its involvement – here is his comment:

“I explained that we had prepared an application to the Lotteries Board for $100,000 towards our cost of fitting out the Carnegie Building, but as this was a Council owned property the Lotteries Board required the application to come from Council. They submitted the application, which was successful, and received the $100,000. This sum was forwarded to our Trust.

There was no net cost to Council. I believe that you now understand that there was no “large injection of funds from the Council which were in the main directed towards the restoration of the old Carnegie Building” etc etc. As I explained, none of this money was used for the archive building, which was built under budget and fully financed from donations & grants from members & external sources.

Any “substantial building errors” applied only to the Council controlled restoration of the Carnegie Building, and not to the Archive project. The Trustees did not install any heating in the Carnegie as part of the restoration, because, as you mentioned, the cost of installation & future electricity would have been too onerous.”

Fair enough – I certainly created the wrong impression on that score!

He further demurred on my claim regarding “the demise of several trustees” over time – that is not the case – only long time Chair Morrie Dunwoodie as it turns out, and that was a grave error on my part. The remaining trustees are all alive and well, but there has certainly been a notable loss of volunteers for one reason or another over the years.

Thirdly, he was adamant that the Trust finances were in ‘stable’ state, and this is borne out by the accounts which formed a part of the submission. This unfortunately did not prevent the Visitor Solutions man referring to the ‘deteriorating financial situation’, and even the calculation on page 6 of the Submission outlining the need for funding refers to an “Operating Deficit" of $13,000 as part of the need for $100,000 in the first instance.

One has to draw conclusions from the material as presented, but I could certainly have investigated this more fully. In fact, the accounts reveal a long standing term deposit reserve of some $50,0000, so they are certainly not in any sort of ‘crisis’ as I erroneously implied.

My commenter informs me that:

”The Trust is well run & is in a sound financial position. Due to its success in obtaining, restoring, & documenting much larger volumes of records than anticipated, there is now the need for permanent staff. There are over 350,000 records on the database, and the ongoing digitization of all the records received is a huge task.”  

All in all, I could have done a better job on these posts as they reflected the situation reported to the Council and Board, but I reiterate that any writer reporting on these affairs can really only rely on the material presented.

 

 

 

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