The Board met on Tuesday 26 May for its regular Board meeting, the fourth meeting for calendar year 2020. We are beginning to see a cautious easing by both the State and Federal governments of some of the restrictions surrounding COVID-19, which is good news, however there is still a long way to go. More on what this means for THNSW later.
The Board received an update from our CEO, Andrew Moritz, on behalf of the senior management team as to the ongoing coronavirus situation, its impacts and consequences for THNSW. As we begin to emerge from the lockdown it is already clear that things won’t just go back to the way they were. The COVID-safe ‘new normal’ will be quite different to the ‘old normal’. This means there will be changes to both what we do and how we do them which will no doubt impact us all.
The most obvious example of this is the greatly increased digital and online engagement we have been undertaking over the past few months. Many thanks to those members, volunteers and staff who have contributed, and I hope many of you have enjoyed the videos and other content being made available via our social media and other channels. Some of this content has gone viral with one video alone reaching 2.2 million people globally and watched by over 100,000 people! It just goes to show how much our audiences crave what we do as an organisation, so well done.
It was also great to see over 160 of our volunteers join our new closed THNSW Volunteers Facebook group during National Volunteer Week and I hope this has helped keep you all connected during these extraordinary times we live in.
Our online shop launched this week with a range of exclusive locomotive 3801 merchandise and sales have been strong, with over 130 orders in the first 24 hours! Members receive a 10% discount, so make sure you check it out soon as stock has been selling fast!
Membership fees for 2020-21
I am delighted to announce that the Board approved waiving annual membership renewal fees for FY 2020/21. This means over 1,700 of our current members will have their membership expiry date automatically extended by one year at no cost. Instead, we are encouraging members (who are able to do so), to consider making a donation to THNSW so that we can continue the important work we do in preserving and sharing our rich transport heritage.
Members by now will have received correspondence about your free membership renewal and inviting you to make a donation. All donations will be gratefully received - whether the equivalent of your membership fee, a smaller amount or a larger amount, and remember in the lead up to the 30 June end of financial year that all donations over $2 are tax deductible (receipts will be issued).
Whilst we do receive funding from the NSW Government, your donation helps us to do so much more and in these times when we can’t hold any public activities earning our own revenues, then donations are even more important.
Membership and audience review
The Board has established a working group to review all aspects of our membership program and what it will look like going forward. THNSW Board Director, Deanna Varga is the Board sponsor and chair of this working group, and will focus on what our membership offer and value proposition is, targeted to the various audiences THNSW aims to attract and retain. Members will have an opportunity to have their say as part of this review once it gets underway soon.
The Board received a report on last week’s adhesion test on Cowan Bank. Videos and an explanation of this critical test are available on our Facebook page. This now concludes the testing and commissioning program for the locomotive, and we look forward to being able to showcase it both to members and the public very soon.
2020-21 Business Plan
Given the significant uncertainties surrounding the year ahead, the Board considered and approved a 1st half year only Business Plan for FY 2020/21.
Focus of the six-month plan is:
Survival – meeting all compliance requirements and essential business as usual activities such as annual reporting, AGM, elections and the like;
Restarting and reopening – restarting our public-facing activities firstly welcoming visitors to our museums, then later on our trains. This means implementing all necessary controls and restrictions to make sure we have a COVID-safe environment for our customers, volunteers and staff. Major events such as Day out with Thomas, Thirlmere Festival of Steam and Transport Heritage Expo will not be possible while gathering sizes remain limited.
Progressing our two major capital works projects – the Heritage Hub and the Loop Line upgrade are two important enablers for our future and have separate secure funding enabling them to proceed.
Continued asset management – maintaining the asset management program funded by TfNSW, including our own operational fleet and facilities projects and those projects by our asset custodians that we work with across NSW;
Progressing previously approved projects – projects where funding has been identified or secured such as J&A Brown No 5 and the CHG wagon; and
New initiatives to support post COVID – progressing specific initiatives as funding permits to position THNSW to thrive in a COVID-safe world.
The Board will review and update the business plan for the whole of FY 2020/21 in August / September, when hopefully by that time there will be more clarity and more certainty as to the future events and activities we can conduct and their timing.
Restart and reopening
The majority of the meeting was taken up with a discussion about how we will cautiously and safely restart and reopen. I am pleased to advise that specific back of house volunteering activities are planned to progressively restart from 22 June 2020, however this will come with new rostering and working arrangements and rules to maintain a COVID-safe environment for everyone. Further details on volunteering arrangements will be communicated shortly.
Please understand that we can no longer just turn up unannounced to a THNSW site and do some volunteering when we have some spare time. Safety must always come first, so unless you have been specifically rostered to do so please do not just turn up. Everyone will also be required to undertake a new safety induction before getting back to work.
Importantly, you should also evaluate your own personal circumstances – including you and your family/household members and determine if it is safe for you, and those around you, to recommence volunteering. You must continue to stay home if you or someone around you is unwell, or has a chronic or underlying health issue, which places you in a high-risk category.
The NSW Rail Museum. We plan to reopen on weekends only from Saturday 4 July 2020 with the first Saturday being exclusively for members. The Museum will be open to the public from the Sunday 5 July 2020. This will be by pre-booked ticket only and be limited to a maximum of 250 visitors in two sessions each day, one morning and one afternoon. Certain exhibits will be closed and enhanced cleaning measures put in place. As an added attraction the Locomotive 3801 will be on display on the amphitheatre each day for supervised cab visits.
Meanwhile, Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum plans to reopen on Sunday 12 July with a limit of 60 visitors at a time.
Further details on the members’ only event and the public re-openings will be available via social media and our website soon.
There will be no train operations at the NSW Rail Museum or on the main line when we first reopen.
Appointed director recruitment
The Board convened the appointed director panel in accordance with the Constitution as Appointed Director, Leann Meiers has decided to step down from the Board as soon as a replacement Director is found.
On behalf of the Board, I thank Leann for her valuable contribution, leading the establishment of our Fundraising Development Working Group, and her commitment to THNSW over the past three years.
Until next time, stay safe and well and best wishes.