Statement Regarding Newcastle Maritime Museum Society

15 Sept 2020

City of Newcastle is aware that an Annual General Meeting of the Newcastle Maritime Museum Society (NMMS) has been called for 2pm today (15 September 2020).

The NMMS Board has proposed a motion that the Society dissolve.

It is a similar resolution to that successfully passed by NMMS members on 21 May 2018, which was ultimately not enforced by either the former or current Board.

Over the past 18 months the Lord Mayor and or CEO have met on multiple occasions with former NMMS President Peter Morris, as well as NMMS Foundation Director Jeanne Walls, the Maritime Union of Australia, Hunter Workers, MUA Veterans’ Committee, among others.

Further, in July the Lord Mayor and CEO agreed to meet with NMMS Board member Professor Howard Dick. Prior to this meeting occurring, Professor Dick resigned from the Board of the NMMS. The meeting went ahead with significant progress made on a way forward.

Through this meeting and subsequent discussions with Professor Dick, City of Newcastle has offered the following:

  • Should the NMMS elect to dissolve, City of Newcastle will work with a liquidator on the purchase of a number of items from the NMMS collection.
  • Proceeds from the sale of these items will be used by the liquidator to address debts owed to proven creditors of the NMMS.
  • City of Newcastle will exhibit the purchased items at the Newcastle Museum as part of a permanent maritime exhibition.
  • City of Newcastle will participate in a Working Party to determine whether a suitable waterfront site for the establishment of a Maritime Museum can be identified. City of Newcastle will not chair the Working Party. Any cost associated with the Working Party or resulting from actions of the Working Party will not be borne by City of Newcastle.
  • Should a suitable site be identified and leased for 25+ years, City of Newcastle will reasonably consider a request for the transfer of any purchased items formerly belonging to the NMMS, at a cost of $1. This consideration will also be dependent on the request confirming the group/ organisation has secured sufficient working funds for both the construction of a Museum as well as operational expenditure for a minimum of 10 years. A separate lease for a minimum five years must also exist for the storage of the collection.

Since the dire financial situation of the NMMS became known three years ago, City of Newcastle has repeatedly stated its support for the collection to remain locally owned. However, all discussions with the current and previous Board have stipulated that the NMMS first resolve its extensive list of creditors. This task remains outstanding.

In recent months City of Newcastle has been contacted by numerous people identified on a list of creditors compiled by the NMMS. Many have provided copies of invoices for services rendered which have not been paid, despite continuing assurances by the NMMAS of future payment. Each creditor has stated in writing that they have not waived their claim for payment.

Given it is clear a significant number of creditors remain unpaid, and the NMMS has just several thousand dollars of working funds, City of Newcastle supports the NMMS’s proposed motion to dissolve.

The demise of the Newcastle Maritime Museum is a reminder of the costly nature of operating, curating and maintaining a museum, and why City of Newcastle’s position remains that the best way of ensuring local maritime items are available to the public, is via Newcastle Museum.