A private sponsor has saved Auckland's primary schools music festival that had faced closure this year after being supported by city ratepayers since 1941.
The sponsor, Perpetual Guardian, will pay $105,000 over the next three years so that the schools can pay the hiring fees now being demanded by Auckland Council to use the Town Hall.
The decision to charge full fees to community organisations such as the schools was part of a swathe of cost-cutting measures imposed by the council subsidiary Regional Facilities Auckland, which also threatened to force the closure of the Auckland Art Gallery on one or two days a week.
Mayor Phil Goff has recently proposed restoring $2 million a year for the art gallery in the council's 10-year plan, but the higher Town Hall hiring fees have not been rescinded.
Howick Primary School principal Leyette Callister, who chairs the festival organising committee, said she hoped to meet Goff soon to request lower fees in the long term after Perpetual Guardian's three-year sponsorship ends.
"This gives us three years to find a way forward and think about whether the festival continues as it is, which we want, or whether we look at other options," she said.
More than 4500 children from Whangaparaoa to South Auckland take part in the festival's eight concerts each November in what is billed "the largest festival of its type held in New Zealand".
Callister said singer-songwriter Hollie Smith was a soloist as a primary school student in the festival two years in a row.
Perpetual Guardian owner Andrew Barnes said he contacted Callister after reading about the threat to the festival last November because he knew from his own family that performing on stage could transform a child's self-confidence and, as a result, their life journey.
"My daughter is very quiet, and doesn't play much sport, but she can sing - and she's a different girl when she sings," he said.
"What better investment can you have for the future than having a pile of kids get up on stage and demonstrate that they can do something that probably they didn't think they could do?"
Barnes, an Englishman who spent 20 years in Australia, bought Perpetual Trust in 2013 and Guardian Trust in 2014 and merged them into New Zealand's biggest trustee company. It helps people to write wills and set up trusts, manages 650 charitable foundations, and is the statutory supervisor of most KiwiSaver funds and retirement villages.
The donation to the school music festival is from Barnes's personal stake in the company, not from any of the trusts that it manages.
The festival is the second school musical event rescued from collapse in the past month.
The nationwide Stage Challenge and J Rock events were saved by a Government subsidy of $267,000 a year for the next two years.