Cromwell museum, RSA distance themselves from hall complainant

by Kim Bowden - May 11, 2023

Both the Cromwell RSA and museum are distancing themselves from a complainant who has taken his concerns about how decisions have been made in planning for a new events centre to the Ombudsman.

In a joint statement to media today Cromwell RSA president Denis Ryan and Cromwell Museum Trust chair Martin Anderson have voiced their support for the Cromwell Community Board-led project.

"The Cromwell Community Board has recently agreed to move forward with the project, ensuring that the museum will be a integral aspect to this cultural development and we applaud the community board for its commitment as set out in the Long Term Plan," the statement says.

The Cromwell Museum is in the early stages of planning its relocation to the proposed new facility above Lake Dunstan on Melmore Terrace.

As far as the board is concerned, it presents "an exciting opportunity to innovatively present Cromwell’s heritage to an expanding population".

The crux of the issue for long-term Cromwell resident David George, who approached the Ombudsman, is the proposed location for the museum within the new building will displace the war memorial square and cenotaph. It is his view this move was a done-deal by the time the wider community was invited into the planning conversation and that's not good process.

An architect's vision for the cenotaph in its shifted location, front and centre of the planned events centre and museum in Cromwell (Image CODC/Jasmax).

However, the RSA president says the organisation he represents supports the relocation of the museum.

"A shift to this location goes hand in hand with us very well as this gives us the opportunity to exhibit a lot of our memorabilia that up till now has been locked away. This memorabilia needs to be open to the public for viewing especially for the younger generation to learn and remember those that have sacrificed so willingly of their lives for our continued safety and peace."

Mr Ryan says although Mr George is an associate member of the Cromwell RSA "his comments on Facebook are his own and in no way do they represent the feeling of the RSA group".

It is a similar sentiment from Mr Anderson, who says Mr George is not a volunteer at the museum, as he claims to be, and does not speak for them.

"The Cromwell Museum Trust are united in their position that Mr George’s complaint to the Ombudsman does not reflect the views of the board and is at odds with what the broader community want and voted for."

It is the museum board's view the museum's planned new home will provide opportunities unable to be realised in its current location in the Cromwell Mall.

Its spot within the new cultural facility will ensure the museum’s collection, local stories and ongoing research will continue to develop and be available for community access, plus it will enable it to contemplate hosting exhibitions from other institutions, the statement says.

Speaking to Crux, Mr George says he feels unfairly singled out and targeted after voicing his concerns.

He says he is a local historian and has "been a volunteer in that museum for years".

"I think that's just pretty disgusting for them just to wipe me like that. I'm quite angry."

Although he remains the most vocal on the issues, others have told him they share his concerns, he says.

He maintains it is his view neither organisations adequately canvassed members, volunteers or the wider community about the proposal, while the RSA shut down his attempts to put a discussion about the relocation of the cenotaph on a meeting agenda, he says.

Main image: The displacement of the cenotaph that currently sits beside the condemned Cromwell War Memorial Hall is causing tension in the lakeside town.

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