Locals join up to support Gallery fundraising plan

By john.maslin@wanganuichronicle.co.nz, John Maslin

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It was only launched on Tuesday but already people have signed up to contribute to the community fundraising effort for the Sarjeant Gallery in Wanganui.

When Wanganui Mayor Annette Main announced the fundraising effort she said the target for campaign - named A Thousand Stars - was $1 million in four years.

Wanganui District Council has applied to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for up to $10 million in government funding for an extension and earthquake-strengthening for the gallery. It is a project which is currently estimated to cost $22 million.

Ms Main said already people had been into the gallery to sign up to the fundraising effort, which aims to get individuals to contribute $5 a week for four years.

"And I know other approaches have come from people living out of town," she said.

"I've spoken at meetings around the city and people have told me that while they may not have a lot to contribute they want to give what they can."

However, launching the campaign before getting a guarantee of Government support is worrying district councillor Ray Stevens.

Mr Stevens said he had not seen this initiative mentioned in any previous council agendas.

"I've certainly got nothing against fundraising for the project but I'm concerned about what happens to any funds raised and then we find Government funding doesn't come across," he said. "This is really being far too premature in my view."

He said he would contribute to the fundraising effort "when the time was right" as he had done to earlier fundraising efforts.

"But my biggest fear is that this community could not possibly raise the amount we're talking about for gallery extension and quake strengthening without funding from central government," Mr Stevens said.

"And I'd also question the timing, introducing something just before Christmas."

However, Ms Main said the criteria for getting any central government funding was a demonstration from council that it was making an effort to raise funds from its community, from trusts or philanthropists.

"They want to see a community supporting the project so this is one way of doing that," she said. Councillor Michael Laws has chipped into the debate as well, describing the fundraising device "just a little pathetic. If the aim is to get people to give $5 a week for four years then that's roughly a $1000 donation. It would take 1000 Wanganui people to agree to that to raise $1 million. Compared to the costs, that's a minuscule community fundraising effort."

But Mr Laws said that assumed the fundraisers could find 1000 people which was about 6 per cent of Wanganui's entire adult population.

"Frankly, the arts are not a popular recreation here and the Sarjeant is the lowest priority of virtually all capital works needed or wanted in our community," he said.

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- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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