Doubts linger despite funding boost for Arts Centre

The Christchurch Arts Centre. Photo: RNZ
The Christchurch Arts Centre. Photo: RNZ

By Adam Burns 

The Christchurch Arts Centre has been given a fiscal lifeline despite doubts by some city councillors about its long-term viability.

It was decided the historic attraction will receive $1.5 million of funding from the Christchurch City Council across the next two years, with a further annual allocation of $500,000 for the eight years after that.

This is on top of a further $220,000 across the next two years from one of the council's community funds.

It follows growing concern around the future of the cash-strapped centre, leading the Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora trust to ask council for $1.8m annually for its survival.

The funding was secured as elected members were entrenched in final talks on Tuesday for the council's Long Term Plan (LTP) that includes a proposed average rates rise of 9.95 percent.

The plan is set to be formally adopted on Thursday.

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
Waimairi ward councillor Sam MacDonald hoped the large sum of money the centre is set to receive would give them "breathing space to get it right".

"I would implore the trustees to look at the structure of their organisation," he said.

"They're a very competent group of people who I think should step up.

"It's in the interests of Christchurch if they get it right."

MacDonald cast further doubt around whether the trust fully appreciated the economic position it was in.

"While we've had the signs up saying 'Save the Arts Centre', I would almost like to see something that said 'thank you' to the ratepayers of Christchurch, you actually have saved the Arts Centre.

"It's now incumbent on the trustees to work with management of that organisation and deliver something that is effective and long term because it is not at the moment.

"And I don't think they're at the point where they've accepted the challenges and I think they need to."

Councillor for the Burwood ward Kelly Barber also described the centre's funding bid as "like they brought a tank to a cup of tea.

"It could have been a cup of tea if they had taken a different approach," he said.

The council also approved more than $500,000 each year for the next three years for Christchurch wildlife attraction Orana Park.

Like the Arts Centre, it too has faced question marks about its ongoing financial stability.