Dalziel defends ratepayer-funded Christchurch Foundation in spite of review

Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the Christchurch Foundation performed a pivotal role when the city was...
Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the Christchurch Foundation performed a pivotal role when the city was inundated with charitable donations after the mosque shootings in 2019. Photo: Getty Images
Mayor Lianne Dalziel has defended the ratepayer-funded Christchurch Foundation after a city council-ordered review criticised the charitable trust.

A probe into the foundation by Deloitte reportedly cited a lack of transparency regarding the foundation’s financial reporting and argued its operating costs were too high.

Established in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, the foundation has received up to $600,000 a year from Christchurch City Council since its formation in 2017.

An annual grant ends in 2023, when the foundation is expected to be self-funded.

Deloitte was asked to assess how the foundation was tracking towards that goal. Their findings, and the future of the foundation, will be debated at the council’s finance and performance committee today.

Lianne Dalziel.
Lianne Dalziel.
As a foundation board member, Dalziel will not be involved in the discussions but as mayor she reiterated her support for the organisation after a critical report emerged yesterday.

Excluding the $11.4 million raised after the mosque attacks in 2019, in order to provide a valid comparison, Deloitte found for every dollar the foundation raised, it incurred 56 cents in costs.

In contrast, Deloitte said the Auckland Foundation’s costs were 22 cents in every dollar; Momentum Waikato was 40 cents.

Quizzed about the foundation by The Star last October following concerns by ratepayers, Dalziel responded: “People can look at the dollars and cents and say that is a lot of money if they don’t know what the return is, but the return will keep coming for many generations.’’

Yesterday she told The Star: “I definitely stand by my comments,” she said, expressing surprise the review was selective.

“The Deloitte report has not included all the money that was received on behalf of the victims of the mosque shootings, but the operational costs of running the foundation during that period were all included.

“The report has not seen the whole picture.

“When you think back to what happened after the earthquakes, Christchurch didn’t have a foundation that was capable of raising, holding or managing a large amount of funds,” she said.

“I’m incredibly grateful we’ve got a foundation that has the capacity to respond if we need it to respond in times of urgent need.”

However, city councillor Yani Johanson accepted an organisation would incur higher costs when it was established but he did express concern that staff costs made up 62 per cent of the foundation’s expenses, with $413,761 devoted to three salaries in the 2020-21 financial year.

“What’s concerned me for a number of years is the way in which every organisation seems to need a chief executive now, and there seems to be an ever increasing quantum of money going to those at the top,” he told RNZ.

Amy Carter.
Amy Carter.
Deloitte said the foundation was not forthcoming with all financial information it requested though chief executive Amy Carter told Stuff they were being audited at the time and were unable to provide the level of detail Deloitte required.

She said Deloitte had permission to talk with the foundation’s accountants KPMG and auditors PWC but they declined.

“We have got nothing to hide,” she said.

Via a statement, Carter also said Deloitte “had little experience reviewing not-for-profits”, something she believed required a “specialist skill set”.

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