Acting General Manager Community Services Kelvin Day says the Gallery is gathering valuable feedback on key topics, including the combined institution's new cinema, free or paid entry, and public programmes. The questions start with how much you'd be prepared to pay for entry and whether or not an entry fee would change your visiting patterns. And then inevitably, focus on the real question, “Would you be happy for your out-of-town guests to pay an entry fee if you were able to enter for free?” This one's well down the list so no doubt the survey team is hoping that even the most ardent supporter of a free institution will have no-fees fatigue and let this one go with a 'Yes'.
But hang on. The people of New Plymouth spent a lot of energy making sure that ‘not a single cent of rates money' was spent on constructing the new building. That funding came from the government, gambling and petrochemical whitewashing. Surely that major contribution deserves some kind of benefit.
And New Plymouth needs more than wishful thinking on this one. The city is not a tourist hot spot like Rotorua (where all out-of-towners are charged $20) so how much the Govett-Brewster would in fact earn from entry fees is a big question. You can look to the MTG Hawkes Bay debacle for how easy it is to get the sums wrong and the Len Lye Center is hoping to get 90,000 visitors a year (bet that wasn't based on a fee paying audience). All entry charges usually do is alienate your national audience, only pick up a few paying international tourists and lose the energy that attracts the local audience. Lose lose.
How about going back to the petrochemical guys and asking them to sponsor free entry for everyone, the gift that keeps on giving.
Anyone who wants to help keep the Govett-Brewster free can do the survey here. You know what to do.