Board throws Uxbridge $35,000 lifeline

Three months after the Uxbridge Arts and Culture Centre made a desperate plea for help to stay afloat, the Howick Local Board has agreed to one-off $35,000 funding.

It also agreed to an operational review costing $30,000.

The Times reported on March 30 that the newly-renovated Uxbridge centre faced the prospect of closing for good if it didn’t receive additional funding from the Local Board.

In a March 20 presentation to the board, Uxbridge director Vickie Bowers and chairman of the Uxbridge Community Projects Incorporated board Cliff Halsey outlined the necessity of an extra $100,000 per year in funding to continue operations.

They also requested an extra $35,000 if Uxbridge is required to pay water and electricity charges – a cost the centre was not responsible for prior to the $6.5 million renovations of the facility in 2016, mostly funded by Auckland Council.

Ms Bowers estimated that without extra funding, Uxbridge would only be able to operate for another year before it would be forced to close the doors.

Uxbridge has been an entertainment hub for the Howick Village for 35 years.

The Howick Local Board on Monday agreed to a proposal to fund a strategic review (to the tune of $30,000 taken from various budgets) of Uxbridge Arts and Culture to assist with forward planning and to “ensure its ongoing success in delivering council’s arts and culture programmes in the Howick area”.

It also agreed to make a one-off $35,000 grant to Uxbridge Community Projects Incorporated to cover its utility costs for the 2017/2018 financial year.

“Uxbridge has done a fantastic job fostering arts and culture in Howick for more than 30 years and we want to see them to continue to succeed,” said Howick Local Board member and its arts, culture and community portfolio lead, Katrina Bungard via a media release.

“The strategic review, which will include engagement with the community and the Howick Local Board, will be done by an independent person and take a look at the whole operation from what programmes are on offer, what’s working well and opportunities for development.”

The review will then provide Uxbridge with some recommendations so it can meet the expectations of the community, and its contract with Auckland Council, in delivering a range of arts and cultural opportunities.

Under Auckland Council’s new community leasing policy the organisation is responsible for maintenance and utility costs, such as water and power.  In the past these were paid by council.

“That policy change was unexpected and significantly increased our operating costs,” says centre director Ms Bowers.

“Our funding from council for 2016/17 is $306,612 enables us to deliver 250 courses, 52 events and 20 programmes in the Malcolm Smith Gallery. We work on a very tight budget.”

They welcomed the local board’s proposal. An independent person would be able to stand back and take a fresh look at the organisation to determine where improvements and/or savings could be made.

“They will determine whether our programmes are meeting the expectations of the community and the extent to which we are fulfilling our contract with council,” Ms Bowers says.

“Certainly, knowing that the utility costs are covered for this first year gives everyone a bit of breathing space.”

Auckland Council arts and culture manager Richard McWha says council will also look to address some of Uxbridge’s other concerns around heating, air conditioning and acoustics in the recently refurbished building.