Museum costs a threat to history

The Merimbula Old School Museum - a council rental valuation puts it at up to $12,500 a year
The Merimbula Old School Museum - a council rental valuation puts it at up to $12,500 a year "on a land only basis".

On Wednesday afternoon council will discuss local museums and what they should be charged in rent for the properties they use to house their collections.

The discussion follows a request by the mayor Russell Fitzpatrick for a report to come to council on the matter.

The business paper for this week's meeting outlines the staff recommendations for the Bega Pioneers' Museum, Bega Valley Genealogy Society and the Merimbula Imlay Historical Society. None of it makes for pleasant reading for the organisations concerned as there are serious financial implications.

It has prompted Shirley Bazley, who is a volunteer at the Old School Museum, Merimbula to question "how council values the cultural input of the community".

"History isn't just a list of dates. What they decide at the meeting will have far-reaching ramifications," Ms Bazley said.

"If the Genealogical Society cannot afford the rent increase where do they go and what happens to their records. They would have to go outside the Valley. If it's lost, we've lost it forever," Ms Bazley said.

The Genealogical Society is understood to house two of the most extensive and significant collections of early Australian farming properties anywhere in Australia, in the Kameruka and Ayrdale Collections.

Council staff have recommended that the current licence for the Old Pambula Courthouse and Police Station which is used by the Genealogical Society, should be terminated if the society says it "cannot uphold full financial responsibilities for rent and outgoings".

The rent has increased from $559.63 to $9945 per annum but was then reduced to $4335, a sum that was still out of reach of the society.

Council staff said a valuation by Opteon Property Group outlined an achievable annual market rental of $40,800.

The Old School Museum licence is due for renewal in February and staff said that an updated market rental assessment was commissioned by council in July 2020 which indicated a rental figure in the order of "$11,250 - $12,500 per annum could be achieved if leased on a commercial basis" for the museum. This is despite the valuation being obtained on "a land basis only".

The Bega Valley Historical Society currently located at the Bega Pioneers Museum faces similar issues as council staff recommend that a valuation for rental be obtained on the building.

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