A Word from the Mayor
16 May 2018
Affordability of Social Infrastructure has always been challenging, and often contentious.
I am referring to the provision, and maintenance of parks, halls, recreation reserves, sport and recreation facilities, Libraries, Museums and Archives, walkways and trails, etc.
Until relatively recent times the majority of community infrastructure was funded by local fundraising and built by local volunteers, often supervised by local tradesmen, at no cost or discounted rates, as was much of the maintenance and administration of those facilities
Those days long gone in cities and towns, and their disappearance accelerated in small towns, villages, and rural communities in recent years.
There are numerous reasons for declining local volunteer funding, operations, and maintenance of these facilities. In cities and towns, the sheer scale and complexity has necessitated change, but generally, the change toward professional management of these facilities has been driven by a changing society.
Different pressures on people’s time is affecting voluntary commitment to fundraising, administration, and project management. Other factors are the relentless drive to professionalise and centralise, the risks and liabilities arising from the Health and Safety Act, and sadly, the growing culture of expectation and entitlement, and a belief that all amenities should simply be provided.
Each of my communities, from the smallest to the largest are facing the challenge of funding what for them is essential Social Infrastructure, not surprisingly, so are large Provincial Towns and Cities.
Identifying the funding catchment fairly is challenging, as is determining the major and minor beneficiaries for designing a fair funding model, honesty is also required in assessing the critical population mass required to sustain many of our dreams for Community Facilities.
Too frequently and conveniently, we hear the loud call demanding that ratepayers fund dreams.
After years of Government procrastination, the Local Government Minister recently acknowledged the unsustainability of rates as Councils main funding tool, yet days later we hear Leaders promoting another Regional Rate to fund the Christchurch Stadium, no reference to rates affordability, or our needs and priorities to fund critical Social Infrastructure in our own small Local Communities.
In the absence of a major benefactor or an open ratepayer cheque book, Communities need to prioritise, innovate and make tough choices.