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‘Special’ advisory role raises questions for Te Papa

‘Special’ advisory role raises questions for Te Papa

A ‘special’ advisory job appears to have been created especially for the chief executive of Te Papa, with the position established just six days before it was announced he was taking on the role, Labour’s Arts, Culture and Heritage spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

On April 29 the Ministry of Culture and Heritage announced the museum’s CEO Mike Houlihan had been seconded to a role as a special advisor on military history, and would start the job a fortnight later.

“Questions put to Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Chris Finlayson, reveal that the role of adviser was established on April 23. A formal agreement that Mr Houlihan would take up the post was made just six days later.

“By any measure that is a rapid turnaround and it raises suspicions that something was driving the appointment.

“At the same time media were reporting Te Papa had been experiencing financial difficulties. If anything, this would be the time for the leadership to focus on ensuring the stability of the museum, rather than seeking a secondment outside it.

“Responses from Mr Finlayson also suggest he knew exactly what was going on. He had conversations with the Te Papa board chair and the Chief Executive of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage over Easter weekend, where he was informed that ‘Michael Houlihan was exploring options for a role in the Ministry’.

“This comes at a particularly bad time for Te Papa. If the financial issues are substantiated, it seems even more extraordinary that the museum is footing the bill for Mr Houlihan’s secondment,” Jacinda Ardern says.


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