Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Grants purse increasing to $14m

Rescue helicopter protests planned drop in allocation as six other amenities gain.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Photo / Doug Sherring

Aucklanders' rates have given a $46 million boost to 10 rescue, safety, arts and cultural groups in the past four years and a further $14 million gift is proposed for the 2013-14 year.

Legislation sets a levy on the rates paid to Auckland Council to help put the organisations on a firm financial footing. According to figures obtained by the Herald, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra has received the lion's share at a total of $8.6 million for the four years of the funding scheme.

Auckland Arts Festival comes next on $7.4 million with the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum on $5.9 million, and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter on $5.1 million.

The Auckland Regional Amenities Funding Board has put out provisional grants for its fifth year 2013-14 for comment by February 8.

Funding board chairman Vern Walsh said the board was sticking to its mandate from the legislation to ensure sustainable, adequate funding for the organisations.

"The board has to consider the recessionary environment. We have to assess what Aucklanders want from their organisations in service levels and what is adequate."

Mr Walsh said the rescue helicopter trust had been "hugely successful" in raising funds from other sources.

The funding board proposes a levy which is $350,000 more than 2012-13 or 60c per rateable property.

Six amenities are proposed for an increased grant. They are: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra ($167,000 more); Auckland Theatre ($20,000), Coastguard Northern ($10,000), Voyager NZ Maritime Museum ($35,000), Stardome Observatory ($99,000) and Surf Life Saving Northern ($20,000).

So far, the only amenity to publicly object to the proposed grant is the Auckland Regional Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARRHT), which said it was not enough to meet operating losses of nearly $2 million.

Trust chief executive Bob Parkinson said the rescue helicopter obtained 27 per cent of its operating expenses from the grant and the trust felt aggrieved that the board's proposal was $900,000 - down from $1.2 million in 2012-13. He said that before the amenities funded legislation, the rescue helicopter did not get $1 from the region's former seven local authorities.

"We were the only one that did not and the legislation ... remedied that. The council's Auckland Plan states that we are a critical element of the infrastructure and that this funding is appropriate and now we are having to fight for funding for a deficit."

Mr Parkinson said the trust took issue whether it was appropriate for the funding board to combine the trading results of two trusts - one of which was set up to own and raise money for the helicopters that were leased back to ARRHT.

The funding board's annual report states the trust's trading result as a net surplus of $1.79 million after taking into account revenue from other sources of $4.67 million. It notes the trusts' combined trading result for the June 30 year was a surplus of $2.257 million.

- NZ Herald

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