Covid-19: $1.2m boost could cushion blow for galleries, theatres

1:29 pm on 31 March 2020

Community facilities in Marlborough could get a $1.2 million boost to tackle shortfalls triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Marlborough District Council

The Marlborough District Council will look at injecting $1.2 million into community facilities and groups hit by the lockdown. Photo: Chloe Ranford / LDR

A report prepared ahead of a Marlborough District Council meeting on Thursday shows the council is looking to form a $1m emergency budget so sports centres, art galleries and other facilities can pay operating costs like rent and wages during the four-week lockdown.

Affected non-profit groups from certain sectors could also access funds from the council's community grants scheme, which it would consider lifting from $300,000 to $500,000 to help with coronavirus recovery.

Council chief financial officer Martin Fletcher said in his report that while the lockdown had closed facilities, denying them the opportunity to generate revenue, the businesses had to keep paying operating costs.

For example, the Stadium 2000 Aquatic Centre had to keep its water treated and moving. If it failed, the water would turn green, making the centre's restart following the lockdown all the more challenging, he said.

Among the potential applicants could be the stadium, Renwick's Giesen Sports and Event Centre, and Blenheim's ASB Theatre - which last month predicted it would not be used again this year due to coronavirus.

Fletcher said it was too early in the lockdown for most facilities to have identified what they needed help with, but that any funding applications must be supported by financial statements, budgets and forecasts.

It was "very important" that the emergency budget be established, so quick decisions could be made if financial positions turned dire.

Coronavirus also prompted the council to consider changing the focus of its upcoming community grants scheme to keep not-for-profits - described as a "key element in the fabric of Marlborough's society" - running.

Most would be unable to fundraise during the lockdown, the report said.

The grants could be used to cover administration costs, rent, insurance, rates, electricity, wages or loss of income, but not new projects.

Small organisations could receive up to $5000, medium-sized organisations up to $10,000, and large organisations up to $20,000.

If approved, the $1.2m grant would be funded by the council's emergency events reserve, and would not impact rates this year.

Fletcher said if the council did not help these organisations, then it would need to take on more community facilities, which would cost ratepayers. The region could also lose valuable community groups.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett said in a statement that community organisations were vital to the region's recovery and deserved support.

Community grant eligibility criteria

  • Must be in arts and culture, community welfare and social services, environment, heritage, or sport and recreation.
  • Must be a not-for-profit organisation.
  • Must provide services to the wider community or to specific sectors.
  • Must provide a budget showing the shortfall in expected funding.
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