Inflexible funding rules a disadvantage, community group says

A suburban rejuvenation project forced to spend all its funding in an allotted time frame would have benefited if communities were able to eke out money for as long as possible, its project manager says.

The three-year Brockville Community Development Project winds up at the end of next month, when project co-ordinator Marie Laufiso's job ends.

The project, which applied unsuccessfully for an extra year's funding, received $240,000 community development funding over three years from the Department of Internal Affairs.

Project manager Andrew Scott said it took a few months at the start to decide how to spend the money, after which Ms Laufiso was hired.

''So we spent three years' money in two and-a-half years.

''We were told tough, that's how it is.''

Those involved with the project were new to community rejuvenation and wanted to do their homework before spending money.

Leftover money from the first year had to be spent by the end of the second.

The project used the $40,000 for various initiatives, including community hui, clean-up days and, after obtaining special permission, computers for the community.

Despite his misgivings, Mr Scott was enthusiastic about the project's benefits, saying it boosted communication in the community.

Most initiatives, including a newsletter, would transfer to other groups, such as local churches.

Such a project really needed about five years' operational time to gain long-term traction, he said.

''We think if we had been told `you have $240,000 to use over three years and if you can push it out, that's fine, too', we think we could have got four years with judicious use of money.''

In response, Department of Internal Affairs communications account manager Michael Mead said groups were expected to spend a significant portion of the money on a staff member.

''Like other groups who received community development scheme funding, Brockville ... had to balance funding a worker against achieving annual project results; the department encouraged the group to achieve the annual results.

''The Brockville [group] applied for an additional year's funding, but their application was declined when compared to other applications from other groups,'' Mr Mead said.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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