Calling for a moratorium on staff restructuring at Te Papa

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The National Museum of New Zealand (aka Te Papa) management are overseeing yet another restructuring (the third in five years) that will result in the redundancy of at least two more staff members. Since 2013 Te Papa has lost world authorities on Cetacea, Mollusca, and New Zealand fishes. Scientists worldwide have expressed their dismay and disgust at the loss of positions in 2013, and the prospect of these additional redundancies.

Te Papa, ‘our place,’ is not looking after ‘our collections’ or ‘our people.’ A problem exists if world-renowned researchers, people who have also built the collections, with decades of proven collection-management experience, are deemed surplus to requirement by persons with incomparable expertise, and limited institutional and collection management knowledge.

Mr Geraint Martin, the present CEO of Te Papa (since 2017), has said that ‘the decisions that are being made are designed to ensure the right mix of skills within our team.’ It appears obvious to the scientific community worldwide that Mr Martin and the Board of Te Papa do not recognize or value the skills of any of its senior researchers.

We, the undersigned call for:

1)     An immediate halt to the current restructure and round of staff redundancies.

2)     A moratorium on further restructuring so that the proficiency of persons within Te Papa responsible for making the decisions that affect the welfare of staff, collections, and obligations under the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Act, can be independently audited.

3)     The processes and metrics used to evaluate the relative worth of Te Papa’s scientific staff be examined in a transparent and robust process.

4)     That the Te Papa Board explains how both the historical and proposed redundancies and loss of expertise are consistent with its objectives as detailed in the Te Papa statement of intent.

In 1894 the museum was described as probably ‘the worst managed institution of the kind in the whole of the southern hemisphere’ (Rudyard Kipling). Let this same mistake not be repeated.