I move, That the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill be now read a second and a third time. I thank the members of the Local Government and Environment Committee for the very prompt way in which they dealt with the bill and recommended back to the House that it be passed without amendment. I note that the select committee received only two submissions, both of them strongly supporting the intent of the bill. No one expressed any opposition.
Can I give some background to the bill. Nelson is very proud of its art heritage and the fact that Nelson’s Suter Gallery is the oldest art gallery in New Zealand. Art is a very important part of Nelson’s identity, and the Suter Gallery has played an important role in our community for over 108 years. The problem that this bill attempts to address is the archaic structure provided in the old 1896 Act of this Parliament. It constrains the Suter Gallery and does not provide the sort of governance structure that, 100 years later, would enable us to move the gallery forward.
The bill effectively does four things. Firstly, it transfers to a new trust, the Bishop Suter Trust, all the property rights and obligations of the old Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board, including its land and buildings in Bridge Street and its invaluable art collections. The new trust, however, is a standard trust under the 1957 Charitable Trusts Act, and it also is a council-controlled organisation under the Local Government Act 2002. This change means that the Suter Gallery will have a very standard trust structure, with greater legal accountabilities and a direct link with the people of Nelson through our elected council.
The second legal effect of the bill is that it dissolves the old trust board, removing it from the register of charitable trust boards.
The third legal effect is that it makes quite plain that there are no legal obligations arising from donations that were given for recent redevelopment proposals, and that means that the new board is free to postpone or proceed with major develop proposals. I know that at the first reading of this bill the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Judith Tizard, expressed some concern about that third provision. The select committee satisfied itself that those provisions are quite proper, will not remove any of the legal rights that those donors would have had, and are quite appropriate.
The last part of the bill repeals the old 1896 Act.
This bill is not a controversial bill. It has the strong support of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board itself. I pay tribute to the trustees of that board, and to Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who, as a former Nelsonian, has provided good advice on the way forward and the restructuring of this organisation. It would have been easy for the old board to feel threatened by those who challenged the old structure and said it was unaccountable. In fact, the board chose to set up a number of informal arrangements to try to put in place the greater accountabilities that will flow from this bill, well before it was invited by the Nelson City Council to do so. In many respects, the Suter has been ahead of its time. Many of our other local government units around New Zealand have established art galleries, and they have established them as council-controlled organisations. The reality is that the Suter, which was established 108 years ago, was well ahead of its time, and it is appropriate for us to bring it into a more appropriate structure.
There has been some debate about the linkages between the city council and the trust board. I take the view that our local government representatives, who are democratically elected by our community, provide an important oversight for institutions like an art gallery. I do not advance the view that they should have hands-on involvement on a day-to-day basis, but the risk with the old structure was that it was a self-perpetuating trust, and if it became out of tune with the community that it was there to serve, it was very difficult to put it back on track. It is my view that in having the trust board members accountable to, and appointed by, the Nelson City Council, we have a structure that is more directly accountable to the people of Nelson.
There are some people whom I want to acknowledge for advancing this bill. I particularly acknowledge David Farnsworth of Pitt and Moore, who as an arts enthusiast has given hugely of his time to the drafting of this bill on a pro bono basis. The community is also indebted to the Nelson City Council Chief Executive, Viesturs Altments, who has saved ratepayers a considerable mint by doing a lot of the legal work himself.
I also pay tribute to the original founder of the art gallery, Amelia Suter, who all the way back in the 1890s decided to found a public art gallery in Nelson in memory of her husband, Andrew Suter. When we look back at the 1890s and all the stresses of day-to-day life then, we can see that it was somewhat remarkable that the bishop’s wife decided that a gallery was something Nelson needed, and that people worked vigorously to raise funds to ensure its development. I pay tribute also to other founders of Nelson’s Bishop Suter Art Gallery, including Nelson’s member of Parliament at the time, John Graham, and the mayor, who got in behind Amelia Suter’s vision.
I thank Parliament for its indulgence in allowing the second and third readings of the bill to be advanced together. With 1 July having just passed, the members of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery board, which is to be led by a Nelsonian of whom we are very proud, Craig Potton, who is famous for his photography—he offered to be the new trust chair, and it has been agreed that he shall—are champing at the bit to get on with the important work of entering this new chapter in the life of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery. I acknowledge the support of all the parties that have agreed to the combining of the second and third readings to allow this bill to be advanced as quickly as possible.
I rise also to support the second and third readings of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill. The Suter is New Zealand’s third-oldest public art gallery, and it is a regional treasure in the Nelson-Tasman area. It was, in fact, the first building in New Zealand to be constructed solely for the purpose of displaying art, and it has been an intrinsic part of the cultural fabric of Nelson and the area ever since. The Suter was created as a memorial to Andrew Burns Suter, who was the bishop of Nelson for a long time, from 1866 to 1891, and it was built to house a gift of his paintings donated by his widow, Amelia Suter, to the people of Nelson. It has been governed by a trust established under an Act of Parliament ever since then.
The Suter houses some extraordinary artworks and art collections, of which the Nelson people are extraordinarily proud. It houses wonderful collections of work by Sir Toss Woollaston and John Gully, famous artists who have added to the identity not only of the Nelson region but also of this country. The idea of national identity is embodied profoundly in the arts and the creative industries, and those very arts and creative industries are facets of the Nelson and Tasman communities and part of what makes the area a really lovely place in which to live. It also makes the area a unique place in which to live. The cultural and artistic contributions of Nelsonians are famous throughout the country. The Suter is also known for its ceramic collections. It has played a big part in—cementing, I suppose—firming up Nelson’s reputation as an arts centre and, together with Nelson’s natural beauty, it has turned the area into a tourist Mecca, which is not to put too strong a point on it.
The trust that now governs the Suter is independent of the Nelson City Council, but both the city council and the Suter itself have been seeking support for a change to be made to the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trustees Act, and this bill provides that change. The two submissions that the Local Government and Environment Committee heard came from the same person, Sari Hodgson, representing two different capacities, and she is to be congratulated on making those submissions. She made her submissions as the chair of the Suter trust as it was under the existing legislation and as somebody with a passionate interest in the arts communities in Nelson, and neither of her submissions attracted any contradiction from anywhere around Parliament.
This Government has been an active promoter of the arts and the creative industries, and if we were to ask anybody in the Nelson arts communities whether that is true, he or she would say yes. Those people give a constant and ringing endorsement to this Government’s promotion, support, and enhancement of the arts and the creative industries across the board.
This legislation modernises the structures under which the Bishop Suter Art Gallery will operate. It makes them not only more modern but more fitting. It applies a level of democratic accountability to the structure for the governance of the art gallery, by incorporating it as a new trust board, registered under the Charitable Trusts Act, that is a council-controlled organisation of the Nelson City Council. I congratulate all of those who have been active in the promotion of this modernisation of the governance arrangements around the Suter Gallery. I too wish to pay a tribute to David Farnsworth for the work he has done to promote this bill and make it a reality. I commend the previous speaker for bringing the bill to the House. It was never going to be a contentious issue, because it was something that seemed to be appropriate for the time and a good thing to do, not only because it was supported by all the significant players around the Suter but also because it does bring the gallery into a much more modern framework. Through the connection with the city council, the framework underscores a level of democratic accountability, and the new trust board will be ably led, as the trust has been in the past. In its new guise it will continue to be chaired very ably by the wonderful Craig Potton. I look forward to the Suter and the new trust board going from strength to strength.
This bill follows a review that was initiated in 2005 and had as its purpose a view that local councils, and therefore the public, should be given greater involvement in the Suter’s governance and decision-making processes. That is, I suppose, the angle, the direction from which democratic accountability can be inferred. The bill will vest the assets and liabilities of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board in the new Bishop Suter Trust, and that will be a new Nelson City Council - controlled organisation.
The Suter Gallery is a jewel in Nelson’s crown. It is a lovely place. It is a place where I must say I spend increasing amounts of time, because any number of functions, openings, and events are held at the art gallery, and apart from that, it is simply a lovely place in which to spend time, meet friends, and look at the carefully curated and, I must say, beautifully presented exhibitions. If people have not seen the current one, they might take my reference to Sir Toss Woollaston to heart. If people are passing through Nelson, I suggest they do stop at the Suter and look at the very significant collection that is there currently. This bill is non-contentious; it is a desirable and a good thing to do. I congratulate the select committee on returning the bill unharmed, and I congratulate the House on allowing it to proceed to its second and third readings in one stroke.
What a dull contribution that was from the soon-to-be failed Labour candidate for Nelson! Regional art galleries and museums are something we should all be really enthusiastic about, and one of the real pleasures I have had since I became National’s spokesperson on the arts has been to travel around the country and see the depth and excellence of regional art galleries.
I am sure there are some people in Wellington Central, excluding yourself, Madam Assistant Speaker—not that I am bringing you into the debate—who would very much think that Te Papa is the centre of civilisation when it comes to art. There could well be some Aucklanders who think that the Auckland Art Gallery is the very centre of civilisation when it comes to art. But I have to tell members that Aucklanders or Wellingtonians who think that would be wrong, because the regional art galleries around New Zealand are simply excellent and they have some wonderful collections.
I see my friend the member for Invercargill in the Chamber. The Anderson Park Art Gallery is an example of a superb gallery. My friend Jo Goodhew, the member for Aoraki, has a wonderful gallery in her town of Timaru, called the Aigantighe Art Gallery. If one goes up the east coast of the North Island one sees a fantastic gallery in Hawke’s Bay. It is in need of expansion but it plays a major part in the cultural life of Hawke’s Bay. When one goes to Gisborne, the home of my friend Mrs Anne Tolley, again one sees an excellent gallery. If one goes to Wanganui, the home of my friend Mr Borrows, one sees a tremendous gallery that has a great deal of potential. The gallery that, perhaps, I love most of all is the gallery in New Plymouth, the Govett-Brewster, and the tremendous work it is doing to build the Len Lye Centre.
Those galleries play their part in the cultural life of New Zealand, but particularly I want to refer this afternoon to the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, which has been around, as my friend Dr Smith said, for many years. It is an excellent gallery. It houses a wonderful collection of the paintings of Toss Woollaston, perhaps one of the finest New Zealand artists. I really enjoy his watercolours, and the Suter has an excellent selection of Woollaston works. As the previous speaker has said, there are also some Gullys, but I have to say that one of the things that really worries me about the Bishop Suter gallery is that it lacks adequate storage and particularly adequate air conditioning for its storage. I have seen the state of some of its works, and it is a source of concern, and that is why it is important that this body be properly structured and properly funded so that it can undertake this very important work.
As one can see, I have enthusiastically travelled around New Zealand looking at art galleries and museums. I see their potential, and I particularly see the potential of the Bishop Suter gallery. Now, I wonder whether the current Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage has had the same enthusiasm for travelling around New Zealand that I have had. Probably not; I think she has probably been too busy down in the sewer trying to dig up dirt on John Key. I have to commend her this afternoon for her excellent imitation of Richard Nixon smearing his opponents. It was a performance par excellence. But let us get on to the bill—
Well, I am getting on to it, but I am allowed to make some comments in passing. Surely freedom of speech is not destroyed yet, although with the Electoral Finance Act we are well on the way.
But I want to say something about the structure of the bill, because the bill has a couple of essential purposes. The first one—and it is self-evident if one has been dealing with the introduction of this legislation—is that the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trustees Act 1896 will be repealed, and that is a positive development as long as it is replaced with something, and indeed it is. It will be replaced with a new governance structure, which is set out in this legislation. The second purpose of the bill is to transfer all the property, rights, and obligations of the current trust board to a new organisation called the Bishop Suter Trust, and, flowing on from that, there is another purpose, which is to dissolve the existing trust board and remove it from the register of charitable trust boards under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957. When those rights and obligations are transferred to the new body, it is necessary that the persons who take over those obligations should have no legal liability for donations that have been given to the soon-to-be dissolved trust board for the redevelopment of the Suter gallery.
Those provisions are contained particularly in Part 3 of the bill, and I do not need to go through those in any detail, because there have been plans for some time to upgrade the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, and, indeed, as I said in the earlier part of my speech, that upgrading is an essential task. I am very concerned that if the body does not get on to upgrading, some of its precious works will be destroyed.
I also commend the member for Nelson for his careful sponsorship of this bill. It is an important bill. It does not simply deal with boring, legal structures but it also lays the foundations for modernising this gallery, which plays such an important role in the cultural life of his wonderful city. I have to say—and one obviously does not want to upset other representatives of provincial electorates in this House—that Nelson is one of the real centres of arts and culture in this country. Every couple of years it gives me huge pleasure to go down to Nelson to enjoy the Adam Chamber Music Festival. I am a trustee of Denis Adam’s foundation, and I know what a huge contribution he makes to Nelson, and to Nelson cultural life. I really enjoy my sojourns in Dr Smith’s wonderful electorate to go to that particular festival. When I am there, I too like to spend some time in the gallery, because it is an exciting gallery. It has wonderful work, a very good curator, and a very dedicated and caring group of people.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak on the bill. It is a local bill that deals with particular issues, but the backdrop to this bill is very important indeed. It is all about looking after a real cultural gem in New Zealand and making sure that the wonderful city represented so ably in Parliament by my outstanding friend Dr Nick Smith—and there will not be any change there—has an excellent gallery that can play its part in the cultural life of not just Nelson but beyond, throughout New Zealand. I know that people go to Nelson for its cultural life, and the Bishop Suter Art Gallery is very much part of the cultural life of Nelson.
New Zealand First supports the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill. I made a number of comments in support of the gallery in the first reading debate, and I will be reasonably brief compared with some of the other speakers. I understand that the gallery is now into its 110th year, and that it was the visionary concept of Bishop Suter.
There is really very little that I can add to all the wonderful comments that preceding members have made. However, I want to exercise one note of caution. New Zealand First is very concerned about the pressures faced by elderly people when it comes to the payment of rates. I see that the vesting of the assets and liabilities of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board in the Bishop Suter Trust, which is a Nelson City Council - controlled organisation and a charitable trust, will give permanent protection to the collection of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, and suchlike.
I want to find out for sure from the local member, and I am sure that Dr Smith can give me an answer, about the effect that running this gallery has on ratepayers in the Nelson area. A correspondent has expressed concern to me that rates in Nelson have jumped by around 18 percent. This particular correspondent said that in 2002-03 his rates were $1,656, excluding the cost of water. His rates are now $2,423, which does seem a little bit high in the space of a short time.
One of the areas where he raises concern is with regard to increased expenditure on the arts. [Interruption] I will not take too long, so if the member resumes his seat he will be able to answer my question shortly. I raise the point generally that New Zealand First is concerned, as I am sure all other members are, that when we have new art galleries, new sports stadiums, and suchlike around the country, which we require the councils to support, the burden can fall unfairly on elderly people on a fixed income. I just make that point, and very shortly the member may answer it.
I repeat that New Zealand First wholeheartedly supports the Bishop Suter Art Gallery. As I mentioned in my first reading speech, I have been to Nelson, I have spent money on art in Nelson, which is hanging on the wall at home, and I look forward to being able to do so in the future.
I seek the leave of the House to briefly answer Mr Dail Jones’ question in respect of the implication of the bill on rates.
Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is none.
Mr Dail Jones from New Zealand First quite correctly raised the question as to what the implications are for ratepayers in establishing the Bishop Suter Art Gallery as a council-controlled organisation. The first point I wish to make in response to that fair question is that there will be no increased obligation on the council to financially support the art gallery from what there was previously under the old trust board. But there is an important change, which is that with the council providing the bulk of funding for the trust, there will now be greater accountability because the council will be appointing the trustees. The important issue for ratepayers is not just that rates are kept under control but that there is accountability for the expenditure of those rates. Under the previous structure, if the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board had been reckless with its finances—and that did not happen, but potentially it could have happened—there would have been no means by which the Nelson City Council could make a correction on behalf of ratepayers. In my view, the bill supports the council by providing direct accountability of the trust board back to the democratically elected council.
Tēnā koe, Madam Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou e te Whare. There is a special reason why I will speak to the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill, in my capacity as the MP for Waiariki. That special reason has everything to do with the relationship between Bishop Suter, who has been spoken about today, and Te Mātāmua o ngā Pīhopa Māori, the first Māori Bishop, Frederick Augustus Bennett. That relationship developed at a little place called Te Mū, at Te Wairoa, in the Rotorua district. My research tells me that in 1886 Bishop Suter of Nelson, while returning from the General Synod in Auckland, decided to visit the Pink and White Terraces around Rotorua. While he was there he conducted a service at Te Wairoa, a village that would be destroyed later that year by the eruption of Mount Tarawera. During the course of the service, so the story goes, a beautiful voice was heard singing the traditional Māori hymn, “Whakarongo ki te kupu”, with its repeated verses “oti rawa!”.
The voice, of course, was that of a young Freddie Bennett, and so impressed was Bishop Suter that he insisted that he would track down this young singer. Upon finding him, Bishop Suter asked this young boy to come with him to Nelson to be educated and to train for the ministry. It appears that without too much hesitation this young lad walked to Ōhinemutu from Tarawera, asked his parents for permission, and took off to Nelson. And so began a lifetime of dedication from this young leader from Ngāti Whakaue, who would, in December 1928, become consecrated as the first Bishop of Aotearoa, and, further on, the Bishop of Waiapu. It was a position he held for 22 years. It was part of the total commitment that Bishop Bennett gave to his Māori people, a commitment represented also in his support for the Young Māori Party at the time.
And so here we are, the Māori Party in 2008, connected through this bill to a relationship that developed some 122 years ago. I might add that one of the houses of my former school, St Stephens, which some of the members of this House attended, was also named after the bishop—Bennett House. Unfortunately, that House did not win too many competitions, so we will leave that aside. What it does say, though, is that Bennett’s name is set amongst the same category of Māori leadership as Pōmare, Ngāta, Te Rangi Hīroa, Timi Kara, and the like.
This is just one of the many distinctive relationships and achievements that characterise the link to this person, Bishop Suter, and the place that gives this bill their name. The Bishop Suter Art Gallery—Te Aratoi o Whakatū—is aptly named to represent art as the pathway to Whakatū, to Nelson. It has been shaping out this pathway for over 109 years, I understand, since it first opened its doors as a provincial gallery in 1899. As the third oldest art gallery in Aotearoa, it can pride itself on an outstanding collection of classics, including artworks from John Gully, C F Goldie, and Sir Toss Woollaston, as other speakers have already said. It is also passionately devoted to sketching out the future horizons for art in Whakatū, hence the reason for the bill.
The Suter gallery has set its sights on becoming a state-of-the-art gallery for the 21st century by seeking to revise the original 1896 Act of Parliament, to now become a council-controlled organisation with the Nelson City Council. Alongside internationally recognised artists, such as Jane Evans or photographer Craig Potton, the new Bishop Suter Trust also includes a nominee representing Ko te Pou Ārangi, the group representing each of the six mana whenua iwi trusts of Whakatū, Maata Waka, and Nelson kaupapa Māori artists. The transfer from the old board to the new board that is effected by this bill creates a more publicly accountable governance structure—as was spoken about by Dr Nick Smith—which is appropriate, given that the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, Te Aratoi o Whakatū, now depends on local authority funding and support. This is all good, and the Māori Party is happy to stand with other parties to ensure that the Bishop Suter Art Gallery can move promptly to take up its new governance structure.
Our only other call at this stage is to ensure that priority is indeed given in advancing Te Aratoi o Whakatū to the relationships with mana whenua. I will return to the beginning again to think of the impact that Bishop Frederick Augustus Bennett made in the lives of Te Arawa and, indeed, tangata whenua. You see, Bishop Bennett was our first Māori missionary in Rotorua, the vicar of the Ōhinemutu pastorate, and he played an important role in advocating against the damaging effects of alcohol abuse on Māori, which was a problem he described as imported by the Europeans. His son Manuhuia became the third bishop of Aotearoa in 1968; another son, Paratene, was the first Māori to obtain his commission in the Royal Navy; and another son, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bennett was the first Māori diplomat, was for some time in command of the Māori Battalion, and later was an Assistant Secretary of Māori Affairs.
When Bishop Suter picked out from the congregation the young Freddie Bennett on that fateful day at Te Mū, it was the start of an incredible legacy of leadership and community passion in Te Arawa, in the Anglican Church, in Māori affairs, in the armed forces, and in politics. Bishop Andrew Suter and his wife, Amelia, also emblazoned a pathway forward for the community of Nelson that will outlast even the most distinctive of the artworks collected in the Suter gallery. From even the most humble beginnings with the Bishopdale Sketching Club, which was established in 1889 by Bishop Suter and friends, it was always the intention that through art the community would grow. That has indeed become the case in Nelson and in the wider top of the southern region.
The legacy of pride, generosity, and community spirit that the Suters sowed over a century ago lives on in the hearts in the people of Nelson, of mana whenua, and of the people that we might call Whakatū. We are honoured to help them to achieve their aspirations by our support of this bill.
I am very pleased to stand and take a call on the third reading of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill. This is a good bill, this is a great bill, and I am very pleased to follow my colleagues from around the House in supporting it in its third reading. I am very pleased, too, to support my colleague the Hon Dr Nick Smith, and the Nelson community of which he is part, to enable them to make certain changes to the way the Bishop Suter Art Gallery is structured and managed in order to bring it into the 21st century. That is why it is a good bill—it is a great bill.
I understand that this gallery—and my colleague confirmed this for me after the contribution made by the Hon Maryan Street—is the oldest and first dedicated gallery in New Zealand. It has played an important role in the life of Nelsonians and Tasmanians for over 108 years, so this is a real institution, a taonga, for that region. It is part of Nelson’s identity; indeed, it is part of New Zealand’s proud cultural heritage. It is an institution of great value, great history, and tradition.
As my colleague Chris Finlayson has said, we have across New Zealand a wonderful grouping of regional and provincial art galleries. They are tremendously important in the communities in which they sit. I too, like Chris, in the short time that I held the arts portfolio as spokesperson for the arts for the National Party back in 2004-05, was greatly privileged to be able to travel to a number of these institutions and galleries: Wanganui, Puke Ariki in New Plymouth, Gisborne, and Whakatāne, and even to the smaller ones. I went to Nelson as well, to visit this gallery. I was always absolutely impressed and moved by the fervour and the pride that those communities have in their galleries—and in their museums, as well, when we look at the bigger centres. I think that that underpins exactly why it is a good thing that Dr Smith has done to bring this bill to this House, and to make sure that this gallery is structured and managed in a way that brings it right up to the modern day. I have one wee regret, not having had that spokespersonship for the last 2 years, which is that my ability to visit these places and see progress has been somewhat diminished. None the less, it is a matter of great pride, no matter where we are from in New Zealand, for us to be able to see the fervour and creativity of the communities that nurture institutions like this.
I say again that this is a good bill, and I am pleased to support it. As has been said by colleagues, the bill does four things. It transfers to a new trust, the Bishop Suter Trust, all the property, the rights, and the obligations of the gallery, including its land and buildings in Bridge Street in Nelson, and its invaluable art collections. The new trust is a standard trust under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, and it is to be a council-controlled organisation under the Local Government Act. This means that the gallery will have a standard trust structure, with greater legal accountabilities, and a direct link with the people of Nelson through the democratically elected council. That makes sense. It is their resource that supports it, so greater accountability is right in line and in keeping with making sure that this gallery is managed well, both now and in the future.
The second legal effect of the bill is to dissolve the old trust board, and to remove it from the register of charitable trust boards. The third effect is to make it plain that there is no legal obligation arising from the donations given for the recent redevelopment proposal for the gallery, so that the new board is free to proceed with or to postpone that major development proposal.
The fourth and final part of the bill repeals the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trustees Act 1896. I was interested in looking at some of the papers that accompanied the bill, as they had a bit of the historical background. As I said, the gallery was opened in 1899 under a trust established by Amelia Damaris Suter, the widow of Bishop Andrew Burn Suter of Nelson. He was the bishop from 1830 to 1895. She conveyed certain properties to the trust and also donated a collection of paintings to form the nucleus of the gallery’s collection. Further land was vested in the trustees on the same trust, under the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trustees Act 1896.
Amelia Suter’s trust deed created a self-perpetuating board to manage the endowment. It has been suggested that a self-perpetuating body of any kind may become ingrown and complacent; it has no constituency to represent and so no other body has a natural stake in its existence. Obviously, that is a big part of the reason why we see this bill in the House today. No other financial endowment or income was provided; every generation of trustees, and latterly of professional directors, has struggled to find an adequate secure living to keep the gallery afloat and extend its activities. I give all the more commendation to that community, and to the people who have nurtured and kept the gallery going, up till now. The properties would have been of more use on a shorter lease, which would have allowed for revaluation. However, extremely long-term leases were customary at the time, especially for educational and charitable purposes. The member for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell, in the tenor of his speech referred to some of this, particularly in relation to the Wakatu Incorporation and other Māori interests there. In any case, the leases had been entered into almost 40 years previously and could not be altered.
As I said at the beginning, this is a good bill. It is not controversial, as has been stated already. It has the unanimous support of the Nelson City Council, the neighbouring Tasman District Council, the existing Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board, and the new board, and it has the strong support of the wider Nelson arts community, so it is no wonder that it has support right across the House, both from the Government side and from Opposition parties. I am pleased that Dr Nick Smith stood to respond to the concern that was raised by Dail Jones of New Zealand First, because in that way we know that absolutely nothing is standing in the way of the passage of this bill. I suppose that underpins the appropriateness of what we are doing as parliamentarians this afternoon.
I am not sure there is much more to say. Those who have not been to this gallery might at some future stage set some time aside to visit. Nelson is a vibrant, creative arts community. I was truly impressed with that community when I went down there as our party’s spokesperson on arts, culture, and heritage at the time. Of course, they were so proud, as well—absolutely proud—and well they should be. Each community, of course, always thinks their gallery is better than the others. One of our speakers has already referred to that possessive feeling we all have about our galleries. I come from Taupō, where we have a very small and compact museum. We are very proud of it; there has been quite a lot of development around it over the last few years, and the treasures being placed there are increasing. I am very pleased to support the bill. The creativity of our communities says a lot about the kind of people we are as New Zealanders. It says a lot about how we want our youngsters to be as they move into the future, and that is the importance of institutions like this.
I rise also in support of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill. Tonight’s debate has the air about it that one has to confess whether one has visited the art gallery; alas, I have not—yet.
Yes, I am already forgiven. That is good; I can continue. The very excellent member for Nelson, Dr Nick Smith, has forgiven me. I am sure on the next occasion I am in Nelson it will be the very first thing I do.
I have experience and a great love of provincial art galleries. The Forrester Gallery in my own town of Ōāmaru is a council-controlled organisation, and is a thriving and nationally recognised and loved gallery. So I am basing my comments—ignorant as they are, as I have not actually been to this gallery—on my knowledge of the Forrester Gallery; I suspect the Suter to be a similarly excellent art gallery. This local bill, which I assume is enjoying the support of all the members in this House, does some good things, as my colleague Georgina te Heuheu has said. This restructuring bill reforms the antique legal structure of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board. It was interesting in listening to other speeches on this bill in the House this afternoon to hear some of the history of the Suter family and their philanthropy and contribution to the visual arts in early New Zealand.
To address the provisions in this short bill, I will go to Part 2, which addresses the transfer of property, rights, and obligations from the old Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board to the new board. Clause 5 “transfers the property, rights, and obligations of the old Board to the new Board, and provides for the continuity of legal proceedings.” So the Bishop Suter Art Gallery can, in effect, carry on its business. Clause 6 “provides that the transfer of the property, rights, and obligations from the old Board to the new Board does not constitute or trigger certain adverse events, for example a breach of contract or trust.” If we go back to the explanatory note of the bill it notes: “It is desirable that the Bishop Suter Trust and the Nelson City Council be free from certain potential claims arising out of the payment of funds to the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board by the Suter 2000 Appeal Trust in connection with the public appeal for funds for the redevelopment of the Suter Art Gallery.” So the new trust board will be unfettered, if you like, in its plans for the redevelopment of and reinvestment in the gallery.
Clause 7 “provides for the transfer of employment agreements from the old Board to the new Board,”—that is quite straightforward—“and for the continuity of terms and conditions of employment.” Clause 8 “provides for the dissolution of the old Board and its removal from the register of charitable trust boards.” Moving on, clause 9 “provides that, after the commencement of the Bill, references in certain documents to the old Board are to have effect as if they were references to the new Board.” Clause 10 “provides for recording the change of name to the new Board by the Registrar-General of Land and any other person charged with keeping any records or registers.” Finally, clause 11 “repeals the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trustees Act 1896.” This is a short, uncontested, and well-supported local bill, which will bring the Bishop Suter Art Gallery trustees and governance well into the 21st century.
I sat on the Local Government and Environment Committee that looked at this bill during its passage through Parliament. The committee received only two submissions, both in support. One was from the chair of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Trust Board, Sari Hodgson, who noted that this restructuring is long overdue and will be welcomed by the board and the people of the Nelson-Tasman region. That was one of the two submissions. The second submission was on behalf of Sari Hodgson—the same, but in her capacity as director of Savage and Savage Ltd, chartered accountants—which noted that to the knowledge of the writer the Suter is the only public art gallery museum that is not owned by local councils. I guess the Bishop Suter Art Gallery has been feeling the disadvantages of not being associated very strongly with or owned by a local council, and the submission noted that it is appropriate for it to now pass into public hands.
On that point, Dail Jones of New Zealand First asked the very valid question of what the effect would be on rates. Well, that is a good question. The amount of rates is an issue that always greatly concerns members of the National Party. Those of us who are electorate MPs and have a very close association with our local communities are always very concerned about the effects of any activity by the local authority on the issue of rates. It was a valid question, answered very fully by my colleague Nick Smith.
The benefit of this measure, quite apart from reforming the trust board, which is appointed by the local authority and which has the support of the wider community, is that it has a higher degree of accountability for any of the funds expended by the trust board. That accountability should give the members of New Zealand First some comfort that the money given to the Bishop Suter Art Gallery by the local authority will be well spent. That accountability, of course, will be part of the Local Government Act 2002 long-term council community plan and annual plan process. You can bet your bottom dollar that if those people on low fixed incomes whom New Zealand First mentioned feel that their money is not wisely spent and invested in the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, then they will certainly take the opportunity to say so. But it is my impression that this gallery is extremely well supported, not only by Nelson residents but also by the residents in the wider Tasman area. With the council-controlled organisation being the governance structure of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery, it has to be of benefit that the degree of accountability and, indeed, comfort can be pointed out to people who question whether that money is well spent.
It was interesting to look at the activities of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery on the Internet. I was very pleased to see that although its governance may be ancient, certainly its marketing is not, and that is probably to its credit. It was interesting to see on the website that the Bishop Suter Art Gallery has a number of current exhibitions—the artists have been mentioned by some of my colleagues—but I am also very interested to see that there is an ongoing programme not only of current exhibitions but also of events. I will not read them out, but those events involve floor talks, which I know from visiting my own gallery are fascinating. When a member of the gallery goes through and says “I particularly like this work, because it does this to me and I particularly like this artist”, those become very inclusive community events.
The Bishop Suter Art Gallery also has the Friends of the Suter, and although this is not my personal experience of this gallery in Nelson, I am a supporter of the Forrester Gallery in Ōāmaru. The friends of the gallery are those community people who love the gallery, who love the artworks, and who keep the gallery going. Together with those people, together with the new trust board appointed by the local authority, and together with the support of the Nelson district council—it is not a city council; I think it is a district council—
—Nelson City Council; I thank the member—this wonderful part of New Zealand’s history has a bright and assured future. Thank you.
I wish to make a contribution on the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill, because I think this local bill is very important. I need to acknowledge the great work that the local member Nick Smith has done in bringing this through from his constituents of Nelson. I have been in Nelson a few times lately, and it is a wonderful place. It probably has an amount of sunshine hours in competition to the Kapiti Coast—would that be right? [ Interruption] Yes, very similar.
This bill is very, very important because it will move the Bishop Suter Art Gallery into modern times. I was very interested to note when I was reading the bill—and I have listened to the contributions around the House this afternoon—that it will reform the antique legal structures of the Bishop Suter Art Gallery. Now, Nelson is well known for art. When we think back about recent times, the wearable art awards were founded in Nelson. It all started in Nelson and now it has grown to be the majestic event that it is, held here in the capital city, Wellington.
I am not sure whether they stole it, but it has certainly grown from when it was founded in Nelson.
I was interested to read in the bill that the Suter Art Gallery was established 108 years ago. The bill will allow this very good group of collective artists to move into the modern century. It will give permanent protection to the Suter Art Gallery collection to enable the communities of Nelson and Tasman to have more public accountability in the affairs and funding of the gallery through a charitable trust. I know that Mr Potton has put up his hand to lead the trust as its chairman. He has a very good history in photography down there in that neck of the woods. It has also been acknowledged in the debate this afternoon that the challenge for this trust going forward is to improve the air conditioning, which I think will be one of its paramount issues, and also to ensure that it has greater storage for some of the fantastic artworks that will be housed in that area.
I also want to talk about clause 6, “Transfer of property, rights, and obligations”, because it is very, very important. I think that the fundamental issues lie with clause 6. It will allow for the property rights issue to be transferred, which is a very, very important object of this bill. I need to acknowledge that the members of the Business Committee from across the House agreed to allow this bill to progress through its second and third readings this afternoon, otherwise it would still be floundering through another members’ day in 2 weeks’ time, as we have the adjournment coming up.
This bill will allow the Nelson community and the Tasman district to lay foundations in the art area. We all know that fantastic work comes out of Nelson. One need only walk around the city to experience the positive feel that people have. A lot of people choose to move to this area because of the arts and culture. It is fantastic. People are pleasant and friendly, and they feel very passionate about this area because of its arts and culture. We have heard in the debate this afternoon that several members have gone around the country and acknowledged all the areas around Aotearoa New Zealand that are well positioned to be the arts and culture capital. Napier and Wellington are up there. We have heard an acknowledgment of New Plymouth and Wanganui, but we have not heard from Palmerston North.
But we will very, very shortly. I look forward to Mr Maharey’s contribution shortly when I take my seat.
This bill is a very important bill for Nelsonians. I acknowledge the good work that Nick Smith has done in bringing this bill forward to the House today. I also need to acknowledge, as I have already, the work that has been done across the House whereby all the minority parties have allowed the second and third readings to be held this evening. I say “Well done!” to Nick Smith and to the very good, passionate people of Nelson. This bill will move them into the modern times and allow the Bishop Suter Art Gallery to make substantial progress.