The denial of $495 for a lick of paint on a rural Rotorua rugby field has prompted a call for local community boards to have "pocket money" to be able to help their communities.

Nearly four years on from a shocking double murder, the Mamaku community has been working hard at fostering a thriving community spirit.

As part of that, community group Progress Mamaku organised a community "family day" - set to include a market, history trails, a hangi and a seniors rugby match.

There was one problem: The Mamaku Domain needed field markings for the rugby game. The group approached the Rotorua Lakes Council for help to paint the field.

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Progress Mamaku leader Nena Rivers said the council had refused to pay for the field markings.

Progress Mamaku leader Nena Rivers with Lyn Fleet, left and Dave Fleet. Photo / Stephen Parker
Progress Mamaku leader Nena Rivers with Lyn Fleet, left and Dave Fleet. Photo / Stephen Parker

"The reason was it's $500 and they don't think it's worth their while.

"Well, if we don't think it's worthwhile paying our rates, they'd have a field day."

She said it would have been nice for the council to "come to the party" and help out with the field markings, but the group had sought another way of marking the field.

Use of the council-owned field incurred a $50 deposit for access and a charge of $35 a day.

In a Rotorua Rural Community Board meeting on Thursday, chairwoman Shirley Trumper used the situation as an example of how and when an operational budget could be used for community boards, and said she felt "gutted" the council had turned the community down for a small sum.

"I would have really loved for the rural community board to pay for that, and said 'hey guys, absolutely ... you're trying to do great things in Mamaku'.

"I know it's only a small amount of money [but] it just generates bad feeling and that's what we're trying to negate.

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"We need, as a board, to have an operational budget."

Trumper said she was working with the council's governance team on how that might come about and would report back to the board at the next meeting in March.

Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post after the meeting, Trumper said an operational budget could be "pocket money" that comes out of what is already allocated to the rural community board each year in the annual plan.

She would be taking her proposal to the council governance manager and suggesting an operational budget of between $10,000 and $20,000, which would be allocated out of the "around $120,000" annual devolved funding for the board.

Rotorua Rural Community Board chairwoman Shirley Trumper. Photo / File
Rotorua Rural Community Board chairwoman Shirley Trumper. Photo / File

She said the Rural Community Board received devolved funding which was allocated each year during the annual plan process. Once that funding was allocated, it was set for the year. The boards did not have access to discretionary funds for one-off payments such as $495.

Asked for clarity on this model, the council was unable to comment as the person able to answer it was "unavailable all day".

Council sport, recreation and environment manager Rob Pitkethley said the request had been made to the council before Christmas, and staff had advised Progress Mamaku the cost would be $495 plus GST and that "for a one-off game, [the] council could not commit to paying".

"The reason behind this decision is [the] council's need to prioritise a wide range of activity across the whole district within a limited budget.

"Council would love to be able to fund all community events but ... does not have the budget to accommodate all the requests we get from community groups.

Council staff had suggested Progress Mamaku talk to the community at the one-off game about the potential for ongoing trainings and matches.

"With the ongoing value that regular field use would bring to the community, [the] council would be more supportive in meeting the future field marking costs."

Pitkethley said the council had worked with the Mamaku community for the last year on a number of community initiatives and upgrades, including the co-ordination of 125th anniversary celebrations. The council's Neighbourhood Matching Fund grant for that event was $18,965.13.

The standard reserve fee of $35 covered event administration support, and off-set costs such as rubbish and recycling and mowing, he said.

Rotorua Lakes Community Board chairman Phill Thomass said his community had differing needs to that of the rural community, but if he had been in the same position as Trumper, he "would have been disappointed as well".

"The community boards are always looking for some flexibility [in funding]. It's a discussion I would be keen to have, but I'm not particularly unhappy. They seem to meet our needs at the moment."

Recent work and work value – Mamaku Domain
Neighbourhood Matching Fund grant of $18, 965.13 to Progress Mamaku, for 125th anniversary events
Lichen off roof of tractor shed and treatment - $650.00 + GST
Mamaku Domain - new fence and gate, new water fountain, Basketball hoops - $8333 + GST; Sweep and clean of courts for event - $868 + GST; Repairs to gravel roadway - $500; Provided paint free of cost for pavilion; Street plantings - $4379 + GST
Source: Rotorua Lakes Council