Stimulus funds about more than recovery

Ana Bonetto is now employed by the Waitaki District Council as an information officer, helping...
Ana Bonetto is now employed by the Waitaki District Council as an information officer, helping digitise the council's property file records, one of the projects brought forward by the $2million support and stimulus package. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
Making the Waitaki district better than it was before Covid-19 is the aim of three new funds.

Applications have opened for the Waitaki District Council’s mayoral relief fund and community and economic resilience funds, to help the district recover from the lockdown and to stimulate the economy and increase community and economic resilience.

The new funds are part of the council’s $2 million support and stimulus package, announced in March.

"It’s really around making Waitaki a better place," Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said.

"It’s not heading back to where we were; it’s actually getting better than where we were."

The $300,000 community resilience fund was available to provide support or create additional services in the community, such as projects to increase social cohesion, community resilience and wellbeing.

There would be some overlap between it and the $300,000 economic resilience fund, Mr Kircher said. The latter had more of a commercial focus.

There was also an opportunity to attract skilled people to the Waitaki district, as a lot of New Zealanders were returning home from overseas, he said.

"A lot of people have learned how to work from home. It doesn’t matter whether their work is in Oamaru, or whether it’s in London — they could be working from Waitaki, enjoying the lifestyle we have, earning money from overseas or around New Zealand, but spending it in Waitaki," he said.

The $30,000 mayoral relief fund was for one-off assistance for individuals and families who were experiencing serious hardship due to Covid-19, he said. In most cases, they would get support from central government. The council’s fund would be a "last resort", when they had exhausted all other sources of funding.

The new funds will stay open until the council considers the major impacts of the pandemic to be over, or all the money has been allocated. The committees responsible for distributing the funds are scheduled to meet monthly to consider applications.

The $2 million support and stimulus fund had also been used to bring forward council projects, such as the digitisation of thousands of property files. There was still money that had not been allocated, Mr Kircher said.

"We don’t want to spend it unless it’s going to bring sufficient benefit, and one of the key criteria of all of this spending is that we don’t cover anything that central government is covering.

"It all comes back to being mindful that it’s ratepayer money and needing to use it really carefully."

Application forms are available on the council’s website, or in print form at its Thames St headquarters, the Waihemo Service Centre and Waitaki District Libraries.

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