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Heritage – National Trust Solvency

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 June 2022

Tags: Heritage

Ms O'CONNOR - The National Trust have had solvency problems for a very long time, and I think it needs to be acknowledged that the state relies on the National Trust to preserve heritage. It's actually a critical role they play in preserving heritage. There have been reports over the years of the National Trust, because of its financial problems, selling off some of the heritage items for which they have responsibility that have been donated or granted to them. Do you have any line of sight to that, and is there any concern within Heritage Tasmania about the National Trust being so skint, effectively, that they are in fact selling heritage from time to time?

Ms OGILVIE - I don't want to bore you by reading out paperwork that you might be familiar with already -

Ms O'CONNOR - Don't, please.

Ms OGILVIE - but I will say that I have recently met with the chairman of the board and the CEO and expressed my great desire to see a strong, functional and strategically well-run operation. We have provided that additional funding to assist with strategic planning. I am very aware that old buildings and historic and heritage sites are expensive to maintain, o there is a challenge there that I think particularly after pandemic times has hit the National Trust. We also know that their volunteer cohort is older, so that goes to a cost if volunteers aren't able to assist you either have to hire people or find other ways.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you able to go to the question?

Ms OGILVIE - There will be some thinking around adaptive reuse and we'll work closely with them on that. The National Trust, to my understanding, is not insolvent, however there is work to be done, clearly.

Ms O'CONNOR - I implore you to answer the question.

Ms OGILVIE - I share your view that they provide a critical and important element of our ecosystem, which is what we're looking at in our report over here. When it comes to the selling of elements that they might hold in trust, or have been donated, I don't have a line of sight on that other than what the deputy secretary might be able to tell me, but I am aware that in past years there has been some media reporting on that.

Ms WILSON - To my knowledge, the National Trust hasn't sold any items recently. I think some years ago it did sell a painting which attracted some -

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, a Glover painting, we think, for about $80 000 to a member for the Farrell family. I know the one you're talking about. Maybe it was a Haughton Forrest. A colonial masterpiece, Chair.

CHAIR - I appreciate that.

Ms WILSON - I think subsequent to that, it sought to dispose of some low-level items, but I'm not aware of the National Trust trying to dispose or sell any other items recently.

Ms O'CONNOR - How would Heritage Tasmania know whether or not the National Trust feels that it has to sell items to stay in the black?

CHAIR - I remind members that if asking questions about third parties, independent bodies and that kind of thing, there is probably limited capacity to respond. Does the minister have an answer regarding the broader policy?

Ms O'CONNOR - They are funded by the state, Chair, and they are the holders of heritage so the state minister should have line of sight to what they are doing with that heritage.

Ms OGILVIE - I am able to provide some information. We have provided that additional funding to assist with a strategic review to make sure they are on a sustainable footing. There is a grant deed associated with that against which they need to acquit.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is not relevant to question.

Ms OGILVIE - The deputy secretary will add more information.

Ms WILSON - I am not aware of the Trust wanting to try to sell some of its items, some of its collection, in order to generate revenue. I am aware that the National Trust is cognisant that it is constituted of its members and the members have views about those things. It has a sizeable collection of assets that run from low level, not very expensive and not of particular heritage importance right up to some very important ones. I understand that the National Trust is not intending to sell those. They are not at risk.