U-turn on amenity funding

By Wayne Thompson

Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Auckland Council has changed its mind about rejecting the funding requests of the major museums and 10 regional amenities after Mayor Len Brown warned it was futile.

On March 8, the strategy and finance committee turned down levy requests totalling $49.6 million for the coming year because this was 8 per cent higher than this year's.

Yesterday, the rejection was reconsidered by the full governing body. Funding requests were approved despite concerns voiced by George Wood, Des Morrison and Mike Lee.

The vote came as a relief to supporters of the museums and the arts, rescue and educational bodies under the Regional Amenities Funding umbrella, who turned out in force to the meeting in the former Manukau City Council chamber.

A frustrated Mr Brown said he did not want "our new Auckland" relitigating what happened three years when Parliament legislated to create a population-based funding formula for 10 struggling organisations.

The model was based on older legislation which allowed a household levy to support the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the Museum of Transport and Technology.

He said the levy requests were within the framework of the law and showed budget restraint.

Councillors should be assured by the legislation capping the 2012-13 amenities levy at no more than 2 per cent of rates revenue.

Mr Brown said that last year, when the former councils rejected the levy rise, forcing it to go to arbitration, the organisations' case won out.

"If we don't agree, this will be sent off to mediation as happened last year, and we will get caned."

After the vote, Arts Festival trustee Toni Millar said last year's arbitration cost more than $200,000 which "should have been spent on worthwhile things".

- NZ Herald

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