A council-controlled organisation that receives millions of dollars in local government funding has secured a large chunk of a community initiatives fund.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council met on Wednesday to discuss its Long-term Plan deliberations, which included the allocation of $200,000 through a Community Initiatives Fund. Another $200,000 was considered for enhanced community engagement and participation plus $500,000 to better support local volunteers.
Tourism Bay of Plenty Low Carbon Economy will receive $60,000 and Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital will receive $40,000 per annum from the Community Initiatives Fund. A total of 28 groups applied for funding.
In the meeting, regional council general manager of integrated catchments Chris Ingle told councillors there was another $100,000 remaining to be distributed via the councillors' discretion.
Councillor Jane Nees said she was keen to invest in groups such as Sustainable Bay of Plenty Charitable Trust and Tourism Bay of Plenty Low Carbon Economy that had the ability "to really move the needle" on climate change.
Nees' comments prompted a "hear, hear" from fellow councillors who also spoke in favour.
Councillor Paula Thompson said the funding was "a drop in the bucket".
"It was my understanding through the development of this plan, that we wanted to be transformative and staff have done a very good job identifying our strategic priorities, we know what they are. They include climate change and community participation."
Thompson also asked that council staff work with unsuccessful applicants to see what support, other than financial, the council could offer.
Councillor Lyall Thurston said he fully supported Sustainable Bay of Plenty which had a proven track record.
Thurston also vouched for Rotorua X Charitable Trust which he said had done good work with local businesses.
Councillors voted to allocate the remaining money among Priority One ($40,000), Sport Bay of Plenty ($25,000), Sustainable Bay of Plenty Charitable Trust ($30,000), and Rotorua X Charitable Trust ($3333).
Another $500,000 will be distributed to volunteer projects including Bay Conservation Alliance ($85,000 per annum); NZ Landcare Trust ($100,000 per annum); Envirohub ($100,000 per annum). The remaining $215,000 was earmarked to go towards administrative costs but was turned down by councillors, who asked staff to find a more direct way to invest in the community.
Councillors signed off on the $200,000 for community engagement and also agreed to a new fund of $75,000 that was created for youth engagement, which councillor Stacey Rose said was "a very important kaupapa and further investment is needed".
"This would be a great opportunity for our council to make further strides in that space."
Councillor Stuart Crosby said engaging young people in local government was a major focus across New Zealand.
Councillor Te Taru White agreed, saying youth "are our future".
"Look around the table. Most of us have grey hair and are looking down the slope. I support what Stacey has said."
Regional council chief executive Fiona McTavish said after the meeting all funding applications were evaluated via the community initiatives funding criteria "to ensure a fair and even assessment across all proposals".
Asked why community initiative funding was being given to a council-controlled organisation such as Tourism Bay of Plenty, McTavish said staff evaluated all applications for likely public benefit and it was one of the two highest-rated applications.
Climate change touched all of the council's strategic priorities, she said.
McTavish said the other more grassroots groups that lost out were also ranked high by staff but councillors chose others "that more closely aligned with their views of community need and the core business of council".
There was "no significant drop-off" between community and more corporate applications, she said.
Tourism Bay of Plenty does not receive other funding from the regional council but is a trust jointly controlled by Tauranga City Council and Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
In 2020 it received $2.2 million in funding from Tauranga City Council and $200,000 from Western Bay council plus another $84,000 from Whakatāne District Council.
Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital receives $60,000 from the regional council to support administrative costs.
The decisions are expected to be adopted into the Long-term Plan next month.