SPCA funding alarms councillors

By Lawrence Gullery

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A $20,000 injection of ratepayer money will be put into helping the financially troubled Hastings SPCA, but opponents of the decision say it could open the door for more requests from those struggling to make ends meet.

The Hastings District Council approved the money at its district development committee meeting yesterday which will be used to drive the SPCA's fundraising programmes which in turn is expected to help generate income.

Councillor Mick Lester said he could not support the one-off grant because the council had considered the SPCA's request for help during at least two other funding hearings this year, when it had been turned down.

"I sympathise with the work they do and know how good it is. But we also have a lot of other people who come before us and apply for grants and in many cases don't get them.

"We have a process in place to handle these things and so how do we argue against someone else coming in with an equally worthwhile plea for money?"

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Bowers agreed and said the council ran the risk of becoming "the funders of last resort" by approving the SPCA's request.

"I really worry about us stepping outside of our process. What happens if there are organisations that look after children or the elderly that get into financial strife.

"Are we going to provide unbudgeted money to help them because, to be honest, they are far more worthy than this one."

She pointed out council staff and the SPCA were looking to see where they could work together and one of those areas was shared transportation.

"That is the type of thing we are probably going to have to look at doing more in the future."

Councillor Scott Henderson said he supported the $20,000 grant because the alternative could mean the council would have to pick up the slack left by the SPCA.

"If we don't support them and let them flounder, I would see it as creating a major problem for the council, with something bigger coming on our plate which we would have to look after full time."

Mayor Lawrence Yule also supported approving the unbudgeted cash.

"Originally the SPCA came to us asking for $72,000 and that was turned down. They've come back and said they are facing financial hardship and they have a concept to make some money.

"With a bit of support from us, that will make all the difference for them on the road to recovery, and they aren't expecting to come back again."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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