Sandra Kirby: Pokie funds: Don't burden community groups

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The funds that are distributed from gaming trusts are essential for the ongoing operations of Arthritis New Zealand. Photo / APN
The funds that are distributed from gaming trusts are essential for the ongoing operations of Arthritis New Zealand. Photo / APN

Brian Rudman's article 'We're relying on money poured through pokies' (October 24) challenges all of us to consider the source of funding for a range of organisations we need to service the community - from "air rescue to opera".

Mr Rudman gave us no answer as to how services will be provided. The indications from central and local government are clear - the amount of funding that will be provided by government for services is shrinking, not growing, while the need for services is growing, not shrinking.

It is in this widening gap that gaming trust money meets an essential need. Services for problem gamblers are the first call on this money - and rightly so. Taxation is the second call, and other community groups are the last beneficiaries. And yes, it is highly likely that every man, woman and child in New Zealand is receiving a service from a group that collects gaming trust funds.

With more than 25,500 registered charitable organisations in New Zealand, there is a limited amount of funding available to support many great causes.

Arthritis affects more than 530,000 New Zealanders - making it New Zealand's leading cause of disability, and there is no cure. It can affect anyone, at any age, at any time. Arthritis New Zealand's aim is to improve the health and well-being of all those people.

Arthritis New Zealand undertakes a wide range of activities to raise income. We receive donations and bequests from individuals, hold our annual appeal, receive some contract income, sponsorship from our corporate partners, host events and maintain donor mail programmes and receive support from Trusts and Foundations, which includes the proceeds of gaming machines.

The funds that are distributed from gaming trusts are essential for the ongoing operations of Arthritis New Zealand.

Ten years ago, Arthritis New Zealand made the decision to become one national organisation. So yes, we apply for funds through a national distribution and we have the administrative efficiencies of one organisation rather than a divisional structure.

This does make national organisations a challenge for the Gaming Trusts, but surely Mr Rudman is not suggesting every organisation should be set up as a series of local groups to receive local money? Can you imagine the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as 73 local groups, so there was one group per local authority area?

National groups like ours, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Spirit of Adventure Trust provide services to people from all parts of New Zealand.

While the laws may not be well enforced, community organisations should not be forced to bear the burden. Tightening of the regulations, as well as effective and proactive enforcement, would be sufficient to meet the needs of a transparent funding system.

Sandra Kirby is chief executive of Arthritis New Zealand.

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