'Glaring omission' corrected with extra funds for Marlborough Heritage Trust

2:55 pm on 1 March 2022

By Maia Hart, Local Democracy Reporter

The Marlborough Heritage Trust has been propped up with $170,000 of extra funding to help ease the pressure of being "slammed" with insurance hikes and the effects of Covid-19.

Marlborough Heritage Trust trustee Cathie Bell.

Cathie Bell, a trustee of the Marlborough Heritage Trust, says the funding will help it keep operating until the council completes its review. Photo: LDR / Chloe Ranford

It comes after a "glaring omission" in council spending towards the trust was highlighted during long-term plan hearings last year.

A review of how the Marlborough District Council (MDC) funded the trust followed.

no metadata

Findings of that review are expected shortly, but in the meantime, the trust still needed support, MDC economic manager Dean Heiford told councillors on Thursday.

A number of recommendations would come out of the review and all of them would require some funding, he said.

Some of those funding changes could take up to 12 months to implement, which was why they needed to prop up the trust in the short-term, Heiford added.

In its long-term plan submission last year, the trust said the walls of the Marlborough Museum were a fire risk, its doors let in ants, and its roof had leaked since "day one", 31 years ago.

Councillors also heard that several heritage buildings across the region needed "significant replacement or renovation".

Yet not a dollar had been put towards building or upgrading heritage assets in the council's long-term plan, which prioritised and allocated council spending for the next decade.

The trust relied on operating grants from the council, contracts with government, entry fees to the Edwin Fox museum, donations and the proceeds of fundraising events. Its operations were also heavily reliant on volunteers and donations of heritage items.

Heiford told councillors "one way or another", the council would probably have to pick up the bill and help them find their way through.

"They're affected by Covid fundraising and issues like every other organisation. They got slammed by insurance increases this year, and I can't see that wouldn't change next year," he said.

"They are pruning their operational expenses as much as they can. It's [the $170,000] really just giving us some time to sort things out."

Councillor Cynthia Brooks said there was "no question" in her mind that the extra funding was necessary.

"I attended their [heritage trust] AGM last year, and I'm convinced they have really good financial governance over there, and a really good treasurer.

"It was clear that - even pre-Covid actually - that they were struggling to make ends meet, which is why this review is going to be so important to allow them to continue their good work for our community and our district by increasing their funding," she said.

Councillor Mark Peters said the funding would "give some certainty" to the trust to get it through to the end of the 2022-23 financial year.

Marlborough District Council's economic manager, Dean Heiford.

Marlborough District Council's economic manager, Dean Heiford, says the additional funding is necessary to prop up the Marlborough Heritage Trust in the short-term. Photo: LDR / Chloe Ranford

Councillor Gerald Hope said the "bottom line" was that the trust was underfunded.

"You have got to realise at some stage, pending this review, it needs to be looked at," Hope said.

Marlborough Heritage Trust trustee Cathie Bell said the trust was delighted the council had recognised the need to increase funding.

"Marlborough has a rich heritage, and there are many projects that need work done in the next few years.

"This funding will help keep the trust operating until the council completes its review of the heritage trust and its operations," she said.

"It has been a tough few years, particularly with Covid and the lockdowns impacting on revenue significantly. Costs have continued to increase despite reduced revenue."

Bell said the trust thanked the council for the extra funding.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the council to do the best for Marlborough's community and heritage," she said.

Marlborough District Councillors unanimously voted in favour of the proposed funding of $70,000 for the 2021-22 financial year, and $100,000 for the 2022-23 financial year.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs