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Council’s Treasure Trove Of Gifts And Art Revealed

A wooden replica of the city's water tower and a royal chair are two of the more than 200 items currently held by Invercargill City Council. Credit: Invercargill City Council/Supplied

Two gifts which cost Invercargill City Council an “exorbitant” amount to transport home have remained in storage ever since.

In February, the council made headlines for purchasing a $750 suitcase during a July 2023 trip to sister city Kumagaya, Japan.

The item was used for the sole purpose of bringing a bamboo bowl and porcelain plate back to New Zealand, with council saying they would likely be on display in the near future.

A spokesperson has since confirmed the two items are still being stored in archives while building work is undertaken at Te Hīnaki, the council’s main administration building, where the items would usually be displayed.

Following a LGOIMA request, the council also provided a list of gifts and artworks held by the organisation, with more than 200 items listed.

They include a replica wooden model of Invercargill’s water tower which was gifted to a staff member by a hobbyist and a chair used for the 1953 - 54 royal visit.

A bust of former mayor Duncan McFarlane on a wooden plinth could be found in the first floor entryway to the Citizens Advice Bureau, while a signed jersey from Scotland’s 2011 Rugby World Cup team was located in the same building.

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A piece of layered slab glass from an unknown source was labelled as “very heavy”.

The council said it did not hold any records on the value of the gifts, which were not individually insured or valued.

It also held items for other entities which weren’t included in the list.

Among the collections held were records and archives from council, community groups, business and individuals, the spokesperson said.

“Our archive is one of only a small number to hold ‘approved repository’ status with Archives New Zealand, meaning that we are approved to hold public records, such as Southland school records, on behalf of the chief archivist,” the spokesperson said.

The $749.41 suitcase caught the attention of mana whenua representative Pania Coote earlier in the year during a discussion about ‘sensitive expenditures’ at a finance and projects committee.

Councillor Ria Bond later called it an “exorbitant” price to pay when people in the city were struggling to put food on their plates.

Local Democracy Reporting is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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