Board battle over Howick Santa Parade funding

The Howick Santa Parade draws thousands of spectators to Howick village each December. Times photo Wayne Martin

Several members of the Howick Local Board have argued in favour of cutting the funding it provides toward east Auckland’s most popular annual community event.

The board voted on a large number of grant applications at its monthly business meeting on October 19.

Among them was one from the Howick Children’s Charitable Trust for $30,264.30 toward the running of the Howick Santa Parade, which is organised by board member Bo Burns.

Burns left the board meeting room for the duration of the almost 50-minute discussion about the funding application and did not take part in the vote on that specific item.

Board member David Collings said he didn’t “want to cast aspersions over it” but he did have “some concerns”.

The number of people who attended the parade in 2019 was down on previous years and he didn’t know what impact the Covid-19 pandemic would have on attendance this year, he said.

“I think in the times we’ve had with Covid and the [council’s] emergency budget, we should continue to be prudent.

“This is not a criticism of the member involved, not at all, I think they do a great job, but I look at items that are listed [in the parade budget] and I think a lot of things are unnecessary.”

Board chairwoman Adele White asked Collings if he wanted to propose a different figure for the board to vote on.

He said half of the amount that was asked for, or $15,132.15.

Board member Bob Wichman said he supported Collings’ position.

“I think we have to be prudent and tighten our belts and this is a good way of showing an example.

“I think he’s gone halfway. It’s a fair figure and I support it.”

Board deputy chairman John Spiller said he isn’t prepared to support the lower figure without further information.

“I certainly recall the board granting $30,000 consecutively for a number of years and I think it dropped to $25,000 last year.

“This is a significant event in the community, it is primarily for the kids and I would hate to see it fall flat on its face through the lack of funding.”

Board member Bruce Kendall said he’s studied the event’s budget.

I’m not convinced the figures are above what they should be,” he said. “I think they are pretty accurate.

“A lot of the money is going back toward the council for road management and toilets and other regulatory things the event needs almost regardless of the amount of people attending.

“I also think we are all aware with Covid it’s been much more difficult than before to raise funds and that will be the case with this.

“Like John [Spiller] I would be concerned if the amount we provided was so low they simply couldn’t run the event.”

The Howick Local Board, from left, Bo Burns, Bruce Kendall, David Collings, Bob Wichman, chairwoman Adele White, Mike Turinsky, Peter Young, deputy chair John Spiller, and Katrina Bungard. Photo supplied Auckland Council

Board member Katrina Bungard said she shared the concerns expressed by Collings and Wichman.

“I must admit there is quite a lot of fluff here concerning the Covid lens we have placed on other applications.

“A lot of these figures could be sourced elsewhere as well, for one example, lollies and giveaways and those sorts of things.

“A lot of companies would sponsor that or gift that, possibly.

“With items like that I’m not necessarily keen on granting the full amount.

“I think definitely I’d be supportive more of the $15,000 based on the figures we’ve got here.

“We obviously want to see the parade go ahead.”

She said she also had concerns over the monetary amounts of some items in the parade’s budget, such as accounting and website hosting.

“It seems like the quote we’ve received seemed to be for the organiser’s company for a year worth of hosting of their company website, which I was quite concerned about.”

Bungard proposed the board provide funding of $20,000 toward the parade.

Kendall said he wanted to reiterate that Burns has organised the event many times.

“I think she’s aware of what the costs are and I really don’t think she would be inflating any costs.

“I think this is what she knows she has to spend and any money we don’t bring to her she will have to find the extra to have to fund the event.

“I am a bit concerned about going too low.”

Kendall proposed the board allocate $25,000 toward the parade.

Spiller said he supported allocating $25,000, as “that is what it cost last year”.

“I would hate to see it on a declining spiral and if we don’t provide sufficient reason for people to come to Howick it will eventually fail.

“So if we only give $20,000 this year and it doesn’t attract many people, then do we just give $15,000 next year until it finally expires itself?

The board eventually voted to provide $25,000 of funding toward the parade.

Burns talked to the Times following the board meeting.

She says comments made by certain board members about the parade budget are “irrelevant” because the grant it received from the board “is not for insignificant things like lollies”.

The trust’s grant application to the board is to cover expenses such as advertising, billboards, portaloos, storage, insurance, St John, and branding and marketing, among others.

Burns says the website hosting fee is for the event’s website, which is a run by the trust and is totally separate from her business.

“I don’t really understand from the event organiser’s point of view and the trust’s point of view why any of that is relevant.

“What the board was asked for is a portion of the costs.

“The actual costs are normally $67,000 to $70,000-plus, but because of Covid we reduced the funding.

“The more funding we can raise, the more we put back into the community.”

Burns says she thinks some board members confused the parade’s budget with items the grant application would cover, which is not the case.

There is an event management fee in the parade budget but given she puts 500-700 hours of her own time into organising it each year, it works out to about 50 cents per hour, she says.

“I really don’t think anyone is profiting from anything.”

White says the parade is “an iconic event of many years, and long may it continue”.

“I am pleased that in the current financial climate we have been able to grant $25,000 to the Howick Children’s Charitable Trust toward providing this event.”

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