Marlborough council in spotlight over theatre

8:07 pm on 1 July 2016

Marlborough District councillors have backed a move to contribute more funding for the recently opened ASB Theatre in Blenheim, along with a review of its management.

Blenheim's ASB Theatre

Blenheim's ASB Theatre Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Mayor Alistair Sowman, who has been asked by two councillors to stand down over matters related to the theatre, said he was "very pleased" with the show of support from councillors at a meeting yesterday.

Agreement was reached to increase the theatre's annual $200,000 operating grant by an extra $190,000 a year. The council said it also wanted a review of the theatre's governance and management structures, to be carried out by a theatre management expert.

The $23 million ASB Theatre opened in March this year, despite last-minute financial problems that saw the council step in to help.

Some councillors said the latest request for more funds suggested it was time for the trust running it to be dissolved and for the council to take over the theatre and its operations.

Prior to yesterday's meeting, councillors Jessica Bagge and Jamie Arbuckle had asked for Mr Sowman to stand down as mayor.

Mr Sowman told RNZ News this week that the council was not in the business of running theatres and could not dissolve the trust.

However, the council has now agreed to step in, and its community finance committee would receive reports from the theatre trust at six weekly intervals, and the council's chief financial officer would attend trust meetings.

Councillor John Leggett, who proposed the resolution, said there was no doubt the trust needed council support and that everyone wanted the theatre to succeed, but it needed to reduce its debt and reliance on the council.

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