Trust comes under pressure

Susan Finlay.
Susan Finlay.
Social and emergency response services strained by changes in government legislation and funding are turning to the Central Lakes Trust for extra funding in order to survive, trust chief executive Susan Finlay says.

The trust was under additional pressure because of growth in the Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes district and the complexity of work social services agencies were facing, and a 50% jump in grants awarded within two years had set a "new normal" for the trust, Mrs Finlay said.

It also meant some of the "nice to haves" might have to make way for more vital projects and funding, and trustees were having to make "some hard calls" about grants, she said.

The trust gave out $6.2 million in grants in 2017-18, the first time in its history it was oversubscribed. It increased funding and gave out $8.5million in 2018-19, and in 2019-20 would give out $9.1 million, Mrs Finlay said.

She did not think the trust's annual funding would now fall below that level, as the issues caused by growth and societal and funding changes "aren't going to go away".

The trust, which gave more than a quarter of its funding this financial year to social service agency operational costs, had noticed increasing requests for such funding over the last six months.

In 2017-18 the trust provided $1.4 million in operational grants, and this financial year that jumped to about $2.3 million.

Mrs Finlay said there were several reasons for the increased demand, including the increased minimum wage.

The increased wage was a good thing, but it meant many social service agencies now faced increased wage costs and their operational funding from the Government had not increased accordingly. Many of those agencies were now turning to the trust for increased funding to meet those costs, Mrs Finlay said.

Other changes from the Government, such as changes to national standards or training, meant other organisations faced extra costs, Mrs Finlay said.

One example was the Lakes District Air Rescue Trust, which had new mandatory ongoing training requirements imposed by the Government and subsequent "significant" increases in costs.

The trust had therefore this financial year given its first ever grant to the air rescue trust, of $200,000, towards the new training requirements.

Mrs Finlay said trust representatives had started "a programme" of talking to government representatives about the impact government actions had on the trust. This would go "across many areas" and involve talking to various ministers and MPs.

She said the trust was not at risk because of the increased demand for grants, as it had strict, robust frameworks and management.

However, "some of our elected members who have been with us for almost nine years say this is the first time they have had to make really hard decisions" about which grants to award, Mrs Finlay said. It meant some "nice to haves" may get less funding, and she encouraged people to talk to the trust early about funding applications they may be considering.

At a glance

  • The Central Lakes Trust was formed in 2000 with assets of $155 million from the Otago Electric Power Board following government reforms. It now has $390 million in assets.
  • Its last round of grants for 2018-19 took the total grants for this financial year to $955,531. Since its inception, it has given out more than $90 million in grants.
  • Statistics New Zealand information shows the population of the Central Lakes Trust catchment was 46,060 in 2013 and expected to grow 3.6% to 54,935 in 2018. The growth was in fact almost 4.7%, and the population is now 57,900.

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