11 Mar 2014

Claims board influenced by gifts

8:02 pm on 11 March 2014

Auckland's rescue helicopter trust is accusing an Auckland Council board of making funding decisions that are influenced by gifts it receives.

The trust is taking legal action against the Regional Amenities Funding Board after its ratepayer funding was cut from $1.5 million a year to $450,000.

At a meeting on Tuesday to consider grants for 2015, trust chairperson Murray Bolton told trust members the board had increased funding to arts organisations at the same time as they'd cut what the trust gets.

Mr Bolton said the board had a secret gifts register and was being unduly influenced by the arts organisations it also funds.

"We do not provide free helicopter joyrides for members of this funding board, because ours is an essential service. We wonder if that's been our mistake. We wonder if free tickets to gala openings of the opera or the orchestra have been in play here."

But board chairperson Vern Walsh dismissed the trust's claims as nonsense.

"We assess each amenity's applications on its merits and their needs based on a huge amount of financial information, forward planning, strategic plans and the like. Each individual amenity is assessed on its merits. The mere suggestion that was made, I find quite offensive."

The helicopter trust's funding was cut because it was already doing well financially, he said.

Mr Bolton said the board should make its register of gifts public so people could see whether board members had accepted gifts, such as free tickets, from arts organisations.