Lower Hutt ratepayers have poured more than $1 million into a regional arts and culture fund but gained nothing back while Wellington city soaks up the lion's share of the money, a report says.

But local mayors disagree with the report's claim that the city is receiving no benefits, including "collateral benefit" such as hotel stays and retail spending from regional events.

Wellington's mayor Justin Lester said Lower Hutt often received spill over when visitors came to events in capital, and Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy said many local residents gained enjoyment from regional events.

Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace said it's not fair to say Lower Hutt is not receiving benefits from the fund. Photo/file
Lower Hutt mayor Ray Wallace said it's not fair to say Lower Hutt is not receiving benefits from the fund. Photo/file

While no Lower Hutt organisations have received direct funding, some have been funded indirectly through Wellington entities, and events have also been held in the Hutt for residents.

Advertisement

The revelation Hutt City Council has contributed $1.2 million to the fund without any local organisations receiving funding was "disappointing" and "frustrating" said Michael Lulich, chairman of the Arts and Culture Subcommittee.

More than 90 per cent of the funding goes to Wellington-based organisations.

The news came from a report into the fund that was given to the subcommittee last week.

Lulich said council contributed $200,000 a year to the Wellington Regional Amenities Fund, which was initially set up around fears the region risked losing national organisations such as the New Zealand Ballet, Symphony Orchestra, and Opera Company to Auckland.

The fund's purpose is to support local arts, cultural and environmental entities that will promote the Wellington region and draw people to it.

Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy said a 'what's in it for me' view was 'inward and myopic'. Photo/Mark Mitchell
Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy said a 'what's in it for me' view was 'inward and myopic'. Photo/Mark Mitchell

But Lulich was now questioning whether the $200,000 would be put to better use if council stopped adding it to the fund and instead dedicated it to arts and culture in Lower Hutt.

"It's been $1.2m and we get no funding," Lulich said.

He acknowledged councils needed to work together to promote the region, but also said $200,000 would "mean quite a lot to Lower Hutt".

Guppy, who is also the chairman of a joint committee that decides which organisations should get funding, said such a view was "inward and myopic".

"The view that they're holding now is a view that might have been alright 20 years ago," he said.

Anyone who was taking a "what's in it for me" approach had an attitude that was "detrimental to the region".

Wellington mayor Justin Lester said the fund is about 'thinking regionally rather than locally'. Photo/Mark Mitchell
Wellington mayor Justin Lester said the fund is about 'thinking regionally rather than locally'. Photo/Mark Mitchell

"My view and my city's view is that no matter where the event is, whether it's in Porirua, whether it's in Wellington city, we all have an opportunity to benefit from it."

Lower Hutt's mayor Ray Wallace was of a different view to Lulich, saying the city received "intangible social benefits" when other organisations got funding.

Events such as the Waka Odyssey have been held in Petone and have showcased the city. Meanwhile organisations such as Lower Hutt-based Arohanui Strings received support indirectly from the fund through Orchestra Wellington.

About 60 per cent of Orchestra Wellington's money from the fund is used on events in Lower Hutt.

"It's not fair to say that we've received nothing," Wallace said.

A comment in the report saying there was no evidence the fund had benefited Lower Hutt in any way "came from one officer's personal opinion".

Mayor Lester said the fund was "about thinking regionally, rather than locally".

"It all about growing jobs and supporting the regional Wellington economy."

Many visitors to the region sought accommodation and entertainment outside Wellington city, he said.

Wellington's mayor Justin Lester gets his fancy dress on for Cuba Dupa, a street festival in the capital that receives money from the Wellington Regional Amenities Fund. Photo/Frances Cook
Wellington's mayor Justin Lester gets his fancy dress on for Cuba Dupa, a street festival in the capital that receives money from the Wellington Regional Amenities Fund. Photo/Frances Cook

Director of Lower Hutt's Dowse Art Museum, Courtney Johnston, said they had applied for funding four times without success, but had applied two other times jointly with other organisations and been successful.

"We go for funding all the time from all sorts of places and sometimes the project you put forward is at the top of your potential funder's priority list, and sometimes it's not," she said.

"You get quite resilient.

"I really strongly support the kaupapa that it's about not just regional effects but national and hopefully international effects. So if that's the kaupapa the committee is following when they're making decisions then that's all good with me."

Johnston said it was "fair to say we're not seeing the actual cash come back into Lower Hutt organisations," but audiences moved around the Wellington region when coming in for other events.

"We get more than 50 per cent of our visitors here at the Dowse come from outside Lower Hutt."

In last week's subcommittee meeting, members voted to send the matter to a workshop to look at how Hutt City Council should proceed with its contributions.

Where does the money go?

2013:

Wellington-based organisations: $780,500
Wairarapa-based: $50,000
Kapiti-based: $50,000

2014:

Wellington: $869,000
Kapiti: $55,000
Wairarapa: $47,000

2015:

Wellington: $950,000
Kapiti: $50,000
Wairarapa: $35,000
Porirua: $15,000

2016:

Wellington: $1.24 million
Upper Hutt: $40,000

2017:

Wellington: $985,000
Porirua: $50,000
Upper Hutt: $40,000

2018:

Wellington: $985,000
Porirua: $50,000
Upper Hutt: $40,000

Note: While the organisations are based in these areas, some of their funding or events may be held elsewhere.

Who contributed what for 2018?

Hutt City Council: $200,000
Kapiti Coast District Council: $48,000
Porirua City Council: $50,000
Upper Hutt City Council: $106,000
Wellington City Council: $609,200