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Wānaka ‘empowerment fund’ mooted by community board

The Wānaka App

Staff Reporters

09 May 2024, 5:04 PM

Wānaka ‘empowerment fund’ mooted by community board Wānaka’s community board wants more say in how council money is allocated.

Funding mechanisms to give Wānaka-Upper Clutha Community Board (WUCCB) more say in how council money is allocated was the topic of the day at a workshop yesterday (Thursday May 9).

The board should have access to funding and more influence over the distribution of money earmarked for the Wānaka ward, WUCCB chair Simon Telfer told Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) staff.

He described a proposal for a Wānaka-Upper Clutha Empowerment Fund which utilises the existing Wānaka Asset Reserve Fund to fund legacy projects (community facilities) prioritised by the WUCCB.

The board also needs a small discretionary fund for operational expenses, Simon said, in much the same way local community associations currently receive an annual grant of around $5,000.

It currently has no access to council funding, he said.

"We can't even buy a paper clip or a sausage roll at the moment because we don't even have a budget."

New funding streams to empower the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Community Board were discussed at a workshop with council staff yesterday.

The Wānaka Asset Reserve Fund started with a $15.6M funding pool and it was designated to fund capital expenditure which ‘benefits the residents of the Wānaka ward’. 

It was created by the sale of Scurr Heights land by QLDC in 2016 which means the fund is “from the community, for the community, by the community and... with the community", Simon said.

Simon said he would like the board - rather than council staff - to prioritise the spending of the fund, noting that the board is currently only brought into the process after QLDC staff.

"[We] want to influence and drive where the asset funding is spent". 

Simon said in the past the fund has been used not only for ‘legacy’ projects (such as the Wānaka Aquatic Centre and the purchase of Mt Iron) but has also been diverted to paying off debt for the privately owned Wānaka Community Hub facility, and to supplement the financing of the construction of the Luggate Memorial hall when it went over budget.

The fund currently sits at around $4.5M, but because it is not invested “its value is diminishing” every year, he said.

Deputy mayor Quentin Smith said there was difficulty in separating projects that need to be done as a matter of course and "those projects which otherwise wouldn't go ahead if left in the hands of council".

While QLDC staff did not make any commitments, the suggestions seemed to be well received.

“We’re on the same page,” QLDC sport and recreation manager Simon Battrick told the board.

He was joined at the workshop by QLDC community and partnerships manager Marie Day and QLDC finance general manager Stew Burns. 

Their additional suggestion to split the contestable Community Grants (which are dished out annually as part of the Annual Plan process) on a ward basis and give the board the ability to decide which groups receive the funding received unanimous approval, with Simon calling it a “wonderful idea”.

Stew raised some questions about the process, from the level of consultation required to how the board’s priorities would work alongside the council’s Ten Year Plan.

At the workshop’s conclusion QLDC staff agreed to take a closer look at how the funding processes for the three possible funding streams - the discretionary fund, the Wānaka-Upper Clutha Empowerment Fund and the Community Grants - could work.

Simon said discussion on new funding streams had begun eight months ago after a conversation about how the board could be more effective.

While he wasn’t "expecting this to be resolved overnight" he said he wanted the momentum to continue.

Read more: Who holds Wānaka’s purse strings? Board seeks control over asset fund

PHOTO: Wānaka App